There was no need for yellow ties or 24-hour rolling coverage at Manchester United’s training ground on transfer deadline day this year, not that it stopped many media outlets from milking the club’s brand to market their output.
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick had already warned early on that there would be no new faces at United during the winter window — even if he wanted there to be — given the global pandemic that has affected many clubs and pushed squad depths to their limits.
It is believed Rangnick would have liked to have seen the United squad reinforced ahead of a pivotal end to the campaign, but with plans to hire a permanent manager before the end of the season, the club had a perfect excuse not to get involved in the buying side of things this January.
The club’s stance on signings was as it always is in these circumstances.
United had no plans to sign anyone but were always open to a late move if the right player came available for the right price — see Cristiano Ronaldo last summer.
Even that sensational swoop for Ronaldo at the start of the season was cloaked in desperation. Sure, this was the return of a club legend, but it was not a planned one, as Sir Alex Ferguson delved back into United matters to ensure he didn’t end up on the wrong side of Manchester.
With 14 goals in 24 appearances this season, many fans will point to his late signing as a triumph, yet there are still many who would question whether it has actually been a success.
Ronaldo brought an increase in standards back to Old Trafford, which haven’t been met, and has netted some hugely important goals.
However, there is also an argument that they might not have needed late heroics so often had they focused on cohesion rather than individual brilliance.
The Portuguese polarises opinion, but United’s lack of buying activity on the first deadline day of 2022 does at least signal this is a club that has a long-term plan and is planning big things for the summer.
Two years ago, it was a desperate swoop for Odion Ighalo after a failed move for Erling Haaland left the club with only one recognised striker following an injury to Marcus Rashford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried, and failed, in pursuit of Joshua King and Salomon Rondon, eventually leading to a deal for Ighalo with only hours of the window remaining.
Two summers ago, there was further desperation as United scrambled on deadline day for reinforcements, eventually signing four players to bolster a squad that had hitherto only been enhanced by Donny van de Beek.
Edinson Cavani was signed after being flaunted around Europe to no avail — a gamble which has since paid off. Alex Telles arrived from FC Porto, while teenage duo Amad and Facundo Pellistri joined after the club had failed to sign Jadon Sancho.
A year later, they would land the Dortmund attacker, further evidence of a club that lacked flexibility and imagination in the market.
However, this year, the passing of the deadline signals the start of United’s summer plans and an opportunity for them to get creative when whittling down their list of targets.
The Manchester Evening News reported last month, United are already planning for up to four signings this summer, with strengthening the midfield viewed as top priority.
United actually commenced plans for the summer window in September and are currently finalising their shortlist of targets, something made slightly harder by the uncertainty regarding their next permanent manager.
United are planning with the intention of appointing their next permanent manager before the end of the season, with the club mindful of the benefit of settling on Rangnick’s successor well in advance of the summer window opening in order to avoid a scenario as chaotic as when David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
With no new faces in the January window, there will be even more pressure to deliver the goods this summer.