With Manchester United not expected to sign any new players before the transfer deadline, the impending €80m departure of Romelu Lukaku will leave the club’s forward line weaker heading into the new season.
It seems they will sell the Belgian without having already lined up anyone to come in his place, but it’s part of a longer-term trend at the club which extends back to the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Key leaders like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra were allowed to leave (or retire) without signing players before they left who could come in and replace them.
Although Lukaku won’t be missed to the same degree, the club have lost a £75m striker they could have otherwise called upon. The Belgian is not the only recent example, with replacements having not been signed for Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini either.
It’s a systemic issue at the club which shows a lack of forward planning. Fans are laying the blame at CEO Ed Woodward’s door and it’s hard to argue against that.
Plans for a Director of Football have mysteriously disappeared over the past few months, and the prospect of bringing someone in who can develop an overarching transfer strategy for the club seems to be further away than ever.
Good deals have certainly been struck this summer, with Harry Maguire, in particular, coming in to fill a problem position in the squad. Even so, the lack of a commanding leader at the back has been known for well over a year.
Of course, transfer negotiations can be tricky and some transfer windows don’t always go to plan but it seems the club work on transfers in an ad-hoc way.
For many supporters, the problem area seems to be the right flank. Daniel James and Anthony Martial favour the left-hand side with Jesse Lingard the only recognised forward who can comfortably play on the opposite flank.
A Director of Football would have likely identified this issue very early on and pushed for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make a choice on a list of targets.
As it is, the only link to a player who can play wide on the right, Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams, is not a target that United are actively pursuing, according to the latest reports.
It seems that, unless a last-minute deal is struck in the next few hours, the club will head into the season short in midfield, upfront and on the right-wing.