Scrambling for mediocre left-backs, a last-gasp move for top target Sofyan Amrabat and unable to sell unwanted players - Man Utd's late transfer window chaos suggests nothing has changed at Old Trafford

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For all the talk of United's resurgence under Erik ten Hag, there is a sense that the club are making things up as they go along

It had just turned midday on transfer deadline day at Manchester United's training ground, but things were already getting hectic. Altay Bayindir had recently completed his transfer from Fenerbahce to play back-up to Andre Onana. Erik ten Hag then held his press conference, in which he confirmed that Sergio Reguilon had not only completed his loan move but had already trained with the team and would be in the squad to face Arsenal on Sunday.

Just minutes after Ten Hag had finished speaking to the media, journalists were ushered out of the press room and encouraged to leave the training ground so as to finish their write-ups elsewhere. There was more pressing business, such as Reguilon's official unveiling and photoshoot, taking place in the room they vacated.

Then there was the small matter of United's long-running pursuit of Sofyan Amrabat. Unlike with Reguilon, Ten Hag refused to give anything away on the Morocco midfielder. Just after he had finished speaking, however, news broke that United had agreed a loan deal with Fiorentina. Later in the evening, Jonny Evans signed a one-year contract, eight years after he had left the club to join West Brom. It had been a frenetic day of arrivals, one to rival a major international airport.

If only things were as busy for departures. Less than 12 hours before the transfer window was due to shut, Scott McTominay's future was not 100 percent clear, even though it was always expected that he would stay. The club were on the hunt for takers for Donny van de Beek and Eric Bailly and still trying to resolve the ever uncomfortable issue of what to do with Mason Greenwood, who completed his shock loan move to Getafe minutes before the deadline.

Despite getting three bid deals done early on in the transfer window, the chaos that ensued on deadline day suggested that little has changed at United. It is one year after another frantic day of business in which the club grossly overpaid for Antony, and a decade since they paid over the odds to get Marouane Fellaini, the only signing David Moyes was granted.

  1. Taking the Amrabat deal down to the wire

    Taking the Amrabat deal down to the wire

    News that United wanted to sign Amrabat broke the day after the FA Cup final, but here they were, almost three months later, still thrashing out a deal with Fiorentina. Talk about bad planning.

    The need to add another midfielder to Ten Hag's squad despite already spending £165 million had been laid bare by United's dreadful start to the season, with Wolves, Tottenham and then Nottingham Forest being given far too much freedom in the middle of the park as Casemiro looked every bit his 31 years of age.

    United did have a good excuse for the delay in signing Amrabat, in all fairness. The Premier League's Profitability and Sustainability rules, formerly known as Financial Fair Play, obliged United to bring in more revenue from sales before they could spend any more, having maxed out their budget on Onana, Mason Mount and Rasmus Hojlund.

    Having only sold Fred, Alex Telles and Anthony Elanga over the course of the summer, they had to wait until they had completed the sale of Dean Henderson to Crystal Palace on Thursday for £20m before they could finally make an official offer.

    Helped by Amrabat's willingness to wait for United, they have managed to strike a very reasonable deal with Fiorentina. But boy did they leave it late, and it will take some time for the new player to gel with his team-mates and get his fitness up to scratch after not playing any games since last season.

  2. Injury-prone back-up goalkeeper
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    Injury-prone back-up goalkeeper

    Henderson's departure forced United to sign another goalkeeper, and getting Bayindir for £4.3m ($5.5m) looks, at first glance, to be good business, giving the club more than £15m ($19m) in profit after selling Henderson. However, there are a few concerns about the 25-year-old.

    Fenerbahce fans seem glad to see the back of him due to his long-running injury issues. Bayindir needed to have shoulder surgery in 2021, and in April he had an operation on a back hernia, a problem which had also troubled him three years previously.

    The injuries led to a loss of form and Bayindir losing the captaincy, as well as his place as Fernerbahce's No.1. The Turkey international is unlikely to play much immediately, but he could be called into action for around a month next January if Cameroon qualify for the African Nations Cup after Onana was recalled to the squad. So United better hope his injury problems do not resurface.

  3. Scraping the barrel for left-backs
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    Scraping the barrel for left-backs

    United had addressed three key areas of the squad in July, but did not think they needed any additions at left-back. Twin injuries to Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia, however, changed everything. And after a shaky display by Diogo Dalot in the topsy-turvy 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest, United found themselves scrambling for left-backs. Unsurprisingly given the emergency nature of their pursuit, they found themselves scraping at the bottom of the barrel.

    First they looked at Marc Cucurella, who had been a huge flop for Chelsea following his £62 million move from Brighton and was made a scapegoat for the Blues' disastrous season. The move, however, was scuppered by Chelsea playing Cucurella in the Carabao Cup win over AFC Wimbledon, which meant United would be unable to cancel his loan in January once Shaw and Malacia returned to full fitness.

    So they landed on Reguilon, who was a hugely promising player when he broke into the Real Madrid side in 2018 and made an impressive start to life with Tottenham, starring in a 6-1 win over United at Old Trafford. His defensive frailties became exposed in his second season, however, and he was dropped by Antonio Conte.

    His spell on loan at Atletico Madrid last season, meanwhile, was an unmitigated disaster. He arrived carrying an injury and fans already disliked him due to his Real Madrid past. Diego Simeone did not fancy him much either, giving him just two La Liga starts all season. While getting Reguilon in on loan is a low-risk move for United, the fact Tottenham were willing to let the Spaniard leave without a loan fee shows how much his stock has fallen there.

  4. Struggling to sell unwanted players

    Struggling to sell unwanted players

    The fact that United had to wait so long to make their move for Amrabat due to their scant transfer revenue underlines how little demand there was for the players they wanted to sell. At the start of the summer, around 11 players were for sale at the right price, including Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek.

    United accepted a £30m ($37m) bid from West Ham for Maguire, but the defender did not want to leave for lower wages, while they rejected a £30m bid for McTominay, demanding at least £40m ($50m) for the Scotland international.

    All remain, with United only managing to get fees for Elanga, Fred, Henderson and Telles, banking £47m ($59m). That may be a lot more than in previous years (£19m in 2022; £26m in 2021 and £16m in 2020), but it pales in comparison to their rivals.

    Chelsea have made £225m in sales while neighbours Manchester City have earned £150m, with academy players accounting for £85m. Arsenal and Liverpool have only raised slightly more than United, £56m and £51m respectively.

    United have already been punished by UEFA for an FFP breach this summer and had to be careful. And if they want to compete with the other top sides in the league in the transfer market, they will need to be more efficient when it comes to moving players on.

  5. 'Ready for the fight'
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    'Ready for the fight'

    Ten Hag insists he is happy with the squad he has after the transfer window and believes his team can compete with the top sides in the Premier League, even though he has refused to entertain any discussions on whether his side are title contenders.

    "I think we have done good business, we've constructed a strong squad and we are ready for the fight," the manager told a press conference. "The schedule is really condensed, so we need numbers but also quality, and I think with this squad we have depth and quality players."

    But there is still a sense that, one year into his tenure, United are still taking a scattergun approach in the market and operating with a sense of panic. The transfer window began with the club taking a ruthless decision on David de Gea and with grand ambitions to sign Harry Kane or Victor Osimhen. It closes with United having done plenty of business, but without having significantly improved their squad.

  6. Feels like the club is improvising

    Feels like the club is improvising

    United paid £73m ($91m) for a relatively unknown and unproved striker in Hojlund, who arrived with a back injury but is due to finally make his debut against Arsenal on Sunday. They agreed to pay £60m ($75m) for Mount, who looked past his peak with Chelsea and did not adapt well over pre-season or in his first two matches, picking up a muscle injury against Tottenham.

    They paid £47m ($59m) for Onana, who was signed to help United play how Ten Hag truly wants, but on several occasions has looked like a disaster waiting to happen. And they have been forced to choose between a Chelsea or a Tottenham flop to cover at left-back.

    Last season, United only really clicked into gear around October, when Ten Hag's methods and ideas truly took shape and they went on to have one of their best seasons in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. There is hope the same will happen this season and that Hojlund can bring firepower to a promising attack, and Amrabat can make the midfield less dependent on Casemiro.

    For all the talk of Ten Hag leading United's resurgence, however, the club still feels like it is improvising.