Comment: How Man United are trying to set their own news agenda after stuttering summer


Jose Mourinho (Nick Potts/PA)
Jose Mourinho (Nick Potts/PA)

IT may be seen as the equivalent of a vote of confidence for manager Jose Mourinho.

The latest briefing from Manchester United insiders on Wednesday backed the club’s manager and insisted the club ‘are convinced they have the squad to challenge for the Premier League title’, despite a disappointing summer in the transfer market.

Back in the days when manager Alex Ferguson and chief executive David Gill were in charge United’s transfer policy and served as the public face of the club, the occasional briefings with the media tended to lack the detail we have become used to in the last five years and this latest round-up of news was timed to plant a book-end on a summer of transfer disappointment that has sparked speculation over Mourinho’s long-term future at United.

Fans were frustrated by the lack of signings in a summer when the arrival of Brazilian midfielder Fred was not backed up by the central defender Mourinho was demanding, with the perception growing that the club were not backing their manager after making failed attempts for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, Leicester’s Harry Maguire and Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng at a time when they were announcing yet more sponsorship deals with excited relish.

United supporters had every right to be bemused by the lack of movement in a transfer window that left Mourinho publicly stating that he was now the club’s head coach and lacked the influence traditionally associated with a manager in English football, yet Old Trafford insiders have offered up what could be described as a set of alternative facts from the summer just gone, with Sky Sports the first to offer a detailed report on the agenda United would like the world to believe.

With information on transfer targets and a believe that spirit within Mourinho’s dressing room is buoyant all included in the latest round-up, which includes the following nuggets of information:

Manchester United officials do not believe Jose Mourinho will suffer ‘third season syndrome’ and are convinced they have the squad to challenge for the Premier League title.

It is understood that the mood at the club is excellent and United feel as though they have the talent at their disposal to challenge for the Premier League title this season.

A lot of the good feeling within the squad at the moment has been helped by the arrival of Fred.

The United hierarchy were prepared to pay £100m to land Raphael Varane had Real Madrid been willing to sell. United were also keen to sign Harry Maguire but Leicester were not prepared to do business.

Yerry Mina, who eventually joined Everton from Barcelona, was not considered to be any better than the defenders already on the books at United.

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United were never keen on signing Toby Alderweireld as their scouting reports indicated he operates better in a three-man defence.

There was also confirmation that the club would avoid signing ageing stars in the future, with the expensive and ultimately unsuccessful deal that brought Bastian Schweinsteiger to United in 2015 highlighted as a lesson learned, with the aim of this method of communication designed to clarify the club’s policy in a summer dominated by speculation over their potential transfer targets.

How much should we read into a story that has far too many factual statements to have come from anywhere other than United insiders?

Inevitably, a club will feed the media stories that paint them in a positive light and similar briefings in the past have promoted a narrative that lacked more than a little creditlity.

There was the suggestion United back in 2015 had ‘pulled-out of a deal to sign Barcelona midfielder Pedro’ a few hours before he chose to join Chelsea, while Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Mats Hummels are among the stars names who were reported to be ‘on the brink’ of joining United in recent years, only for the deals to fall through, leaving those who reported the information to try and explain why they had got their stories so badly wrong.

There are not many Premier League clubs that would release this much information in the hope of gaining positive coverage in the media, yet United continue to believe this is a useful way of controlling the news agenda around the club and turning negativity into something a little more palatable.

Online Editors

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