The 2021 summer transfer window was a huge one for Manchester United. After a season of “Almosts” from The Red Devils – finishing runners up in both the Premier League and the Europa League, as well as reaching the semi finals and quarter finals of the Carabao Cup and Fa Cup respectively – the club was expected to make the signings necessary in order to push the team over that final hurdle. This article will go through all of the first team signings, loans and sales United made and reach a conclusion on whether or not the window was successful.
- Tom Heaton – Rating: 5/10
The first signing of the summer was backup goalkeeper Tom Heaton. While not a completely necessary signing given there are already three other senior goalkeepers at the club, it is at least an upgrade on Lee Grant. Perhaps it was a signing made in anticipation of David De Gea or Dean Henderson leaving, but quite frankly it isn’t important either way.
Now onto the more exciting transfers…
- Jadon Sancho – Rating: 9/10
In order to make the next step and improve, there were a few things that Manchester United needed this transfer window. Firstly a creative right winger was required in order to add more goal scoring opportunities for the other forwards; it was clear that the forward line, while great at finishing chances, weren’t able to consistently create opportunities each other and this was sometimes a problem when facing teams that defended well and with numbers. The Europa League final is a great example, as United failed to penetrate Villareal’s strong defence for most of the game.
Jadon Sancho was really the perfect signing in order to fix this problem. With 16 goals and 20 assists in 38 appearances across all competitions last season, it was clear that he would add exactly what the front three lacked – assists – while providing goals of his own too. Still only 21 years old, Sancho will no doubt shine for United for years to come – while it may take some time to settle in, the talent and the personality is no doubt there and Sancho should be a huge success at United.
- Raphael Varane: Rating – 9/10
With United also needing a central defender, Solskjaer set his sights on Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane. While Victor Lindelof had a good season last year, sometimes his lack of physicality could be a problem and since he was playing next to Harry Maguire (Who, although a fantastic defender, is a slow runner) it was preferable he had more pace, which he wasn’t particularly blessed with either. Varane on the other hand is a Rolls Royce of a center half, with practically every attribute we could possibly want. Besides his obvious general defending ability, he’s fantastic aerially and physically while being very fast, too.
Not to mention his experience – with four UEFA Champions Leagues, three La Liga titles and a World Cup to his name, the Frenchman is a clear winner and will be a massive help to the younger players in the side especially. Varane is an exceptional signing
- Cristiano Ronaldo: Rating – 9/10
The arrival of a striker – let alone one of the best strikers to ever grace the game – was unexpected this summer. However, when the opportunity to re-sign someone of Ronaldo’s calibre was presented to United, especially when he looked set to join Manchester City, they rightly took it.
Although the squad already has Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial who can all play in this position, Ronaldo is just… different. With Cavani you worry about his fitness and reliability; with Greenwood you worry if he’s truly ready for that central striker role at the age of 19; with Martial you worry about his consistency – but with Ronaldo there are absolutely no doubts. He is a world class striker still, and even at age 36 he can still play almost every game without a problem. At Juventus he even outscored the £100 million Romelu Lukaku last season, scoring 29 goals in 33 games in Serie A.
Much like Varane, but amplified, the influence Cristiano will have on United’s young players, especially the forwards, is massive. The likes of Greenwood, Rashford and Amad Diallo will benefit enormously from the way he conducts himself both on and off the pitch. Although it may take some minutes away from some, there will still be plenty of minutes to go around and besides – the goals he will score as well as his influence will make up for it.
- Daniel James to Leeds United – Rating: 7/10
Following Ronaldo’s transfer, Daniel James moved to Leeds United in a deal that was made official on deadline day. Personally I feel that this was a good move for both the club and the player, United get a healthy profit of £25m and Leeds get a good player who suits their system to a tee.
I do think that James was underrated during his time at United however, his work rate was always top notch which meant he always did a great job at pressing and tracking opposition full backs and wingers. Although unfortunately, on the right hand side (Where he was more often than not used at United) he simply didn’t offer enough in possession. It’s a shame to see him go but ultimately I think it’s the right decision.
The loans the club made are generally smart moves – the majority of young players who needed minutes left to get them but not all. The likes of Brandon Williams, James Garner, and Facundo Pellistri all got good moves for example.
I won’t go through all of them in depth since we’d be here for ages, but here are all of the significant first team loan deals the club completed, along with my ratings:
Brandon Williams to Norwich City – Rating: 9/10
Facundo Pellistri to Deportivo Alaves – Rating: 8/10
Axel Tuanzebe to Aston Villa – Rating: 7/10
Andreas Pereira to Flamengo – Rating: 6/10
James Garner to Nottingham Forest – Rating: 7/10
Tahith Chong to Birmingham City – Rating: 8/10
Conclusion – Manchester United’s 2021 summer transfer window rating: 7.5/10
While the ins were individually all excellent signings, there are one or two things missing. It’s no secret that United need a midfielder – the likes of Eduardo Camavinga, Saul Niguez and Ruben Neves were all linked to the Manchester club but they didn’t end up signing any of them. It was clear last season and in United’s last two matches that there aren’t enough reliable midfield partnerships in this squad. The “McFred” duo of Mctominay and Fred has been quite consistent but it still lacks a player who’s good on the ball.
It was also expected a right-back would be brought in as competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Kieran Trippier, who was linked heavily with United throughout the summer, would have been an astute signing – but Atletico Madrid wouldn’t budge on their high valuation of the England international. In the end, Solskjaer settled for Diogo Dalot, who had been on loan at AC Milan last season, to do this job and it remains to be seen how he will perform.
In terms of outs, the loan deals were generally good and James was the only player to move on a permanent transfer. Perhaps Jesse Lingard leaving permanently would have funded a transfer for a midfielder or a right back, however nothing materialized. I think most United fans would have taken that trade, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Lingard could prove a good squad player, though – it remains to be seen how much he plays.
Overall, while not perfect I think that we can call this a good transfer window. The signings improve the team massively, and United are in a much better position this season in terms of squad quality, balance and depth. Most of United’s problem positions were solved, though there is still the problem of a midfielder. Despite that, United should be a much better team than last season and that’s what the target was.
Whether or not the club will challenge for the Premier League this season is unknown, but they will certainly be a lot closer and everyone is looking forward to seeing how they do.