Manchester United ended the transfer window in farce and disappointment with the deal to sign Ander Herrera having failed after the club refused to pay his €36m buyout clause, while claiming that imposters in Spain attempted to muscle in on the deal.
This meant that David Moyes signed only Marouane Fellaini for €32.5m, €5m more than his expired buyout clause, despite a summer that began with the pursuit of Barcelona's Cesc Fábregas and Thiago Alcântara.
As the €27.7m clause for Everton's Fellaini ended on July 31st, United faced the ignominy of having to pay more than this after Moyes and Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, decided to allow it to expire in the hope the midfielder could be bought for less.
With Fellaini handing in an official transfer request at Everton’s training ground early on Monday eveningthree hours before the window closed and United deciding to haggle over Herrera’s €36m release clause despite the Spanish club making it clear they would not sell for less, the strategy adopted by Moyes and Woodward came down to a frantic effort to strengthen in the closing hours of the window.
After United officials were reported as having gone to the offices of the Spanish Football Association to pay Herrera’s clause, the club later said these were actually imposters. Yet this caused bemusement in Spain as the three men pictured going in were known Spanish sports lawyers who have been involved in previous buyouts and were understood there to have been acting on Herrera’s behalf.
United’s late acquisition of Fellaini came only after Woodward decided he should finally discard the joint-bid approach for the midfielder and his club team-mate, Leighton Baines. This occurred after a last offer of €47m was turned down by Everton for the pair during the weekend.
When a €17.7m bid from United on Monday for Baines was rejected – the fee was the same as in the joint price – Fellaini then appeared the more likely to arrive. Yet, with Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman, valuing the midfielder at €32.5m, United's resolve to sign Fellaini was severely tested as the fee was €5m more than the player's buyout clause..
Regarding Herrera, United had decided initially to offer €30m despite knowing that, as Athletic field only Basque players, they would not be minded to sell unless forced to do so by the full €36m being bid to trigger the player’s release clause.
In last summer's prospective moves of Javi Martínez to Bayern Munich and Fernando Llorente to Juventus, Athletic had shown how determined they could be to retain players. In Martínez's case the €40m buyout clause had to be paid by the German club. For Juventus, who were not minded to pay Llorente's €35m clause, they had to wait until his contract expired to bring the player to the club.
While a last-minute loan deal to bring in Real Madrid's Fábio Coentrão to Old Trafford, after the prospective transfer of Baines failed, also did not occur, Woodward in particular will face serious questions about a summer transfer policy that has left United looking off the pace and which cannot have enhanced their standing as a global brand.While Arsene Wenger bought Real's Mesut Ozil for €50m, Woodward – and Moyes – were left with their hopes of making a marquee, signature signing, in the shape of Fabregas, to begin the Scot's tenure in bullish fashion, dashed.