No new signings and no first-team sales: Man Utd are in danger of making a real mess of another transfer window

Man Utd transfer mess GFX
The Red Devils risk falling behind their rivals this summer after failing to sign or sell a single player while the takeover saga rumbles on

It feels as if the season only ended yesterday, but Manchester United players are due back at work next Monday to begin getting in shape for the next campaign. The players who did not take part in any international matches after the FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City - including Lisandro Martinez and Donny van de Beek - will be the first to report back at Carrington on July 3, while those who did play for their national teams will return from July 10.

Then the serious work begins: the first pre-season friendly against Leeds United on July 12 in Oslo followed by a fixture against Lyon in Glasgow on July 19. The club will then embark on an exhausting tour of the United States to face Arsenal, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Wrexham, before a final tune-up game against Athletic Club in Dublin one week before the Premier League season starts.

The returning players will be placed on a ruthless training regime to get back in shape for the campaign. But while Erik ten Hag's men are subjected to a military-style programme, from the outside the club resembles an unorganised mess.

There is little sign of progress on transfers and even fewer prospects of enacting the player clearout that is needed to build on the progress made last season. And in the background, there is still no indication of who will own the club in the long term. Pre-season is usually associated with hope and excitement, but at United, not for the first time, there is a feeling of trepidation and unease.

  1. Transfer targets go elsewhere

    Transfer targets go elsewhere

    The transfer window is open for another two months yet, but given what their rivals have been up to, United fans would be entitled to feel concerned about the lack of business they have done. The only tangible movement so far has been three bids for Mason Mount, none of which have managed to convince Chelsea to let go of their midfielder, even as he enters the final year of his contract.

    Meanwhile, the club have apparently ended their pursuit of Harry Kane, who was believed to be their top target just a month ago, with Bayern Munich instead leading the race to sign England's captain. Bayern also look set to beat United to another transfer target in South Korea defender Kim Min-jae.

    And despite longstanding interest in Declan Rice, United made no bid for the West Ham midfielder, who is set to join Arsenal in a British-record £105 million deal. Interest has been shown in Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana and Atalanta striker Rasmus Hojlund, meanwhile, but no formal bid has been made for either player.

  2. Rivals making swift and smart moves
    Getty Images

    Rivals making swift and smart moves

    Meanwhile, United's rivals are wasting little time in improving their own squads. Chelsea have already signed Christopher Nkunku for £53 million, finally landing the top-level striker they were badly missing last season; treble-winning Manchester City have made their peace with Ilkay Gundogan leaving for Barcelona and have snapped up Mateo Kovacic; and Liverpool have done some early business by signing Alexis Mac Allister, another player who was on United's radar.

    Arsenal, meanwhile, have been the busiest of the Premier League's big clubs. They announced the signing of Chelsea forward Kai Havertz on Wednesday, while in addition to closing in on Rice, they have made steps towards a move for former United target Jurrien Timber. Signing all three players would take their summer spending to a total of £200m ($252m) already.

    Even Tottenham and Newcastle, who will hope to be battling for places in the top four, have made moves. Spurs have signed James Maddison from Leicester City, while the Magpies have agreed a deal to bring AC Milan star Sandro Tonali to the north east.

  3. Deja-vu over 'one player at a time'

    Deja-vu over 'one player at a time'

    United, meanwhile, have been criticised in the past for focusing on one transfer at a time rather than simultaneously pursuing a number of targets. The club spent much of last summer trying to land Frenkie de Jong, for example. Barcelona were desperate to sell the Dutch maestro, who developed into a world star under Ten Hag's guidance at Ajax, but the player wanted to prove himself at Camp Nou and was unwilling to swap his idyllic lifestyle in Catalunya.

    Rather than pursue alternatives, United wasted valuable weeks trying to lure De Jong, and once they finally conceded defeat, they had very little time left in the transfer window to sign an alternative while the season had already begun. It led to a desperate scramble for Adrien Rabiot and finally the move for Casemiro, an excellent signing but a costly, short-term deal at £70 million for a then 30-year-old.

    The club appear to be adopting a similar strategy with Mount, however. It emerged in late May that United were trying to sign the Chelsea midfielder. They made their first bid for £40m in mid-June and have made two subsequent offers, of £50m and £55m, both of which have been knocked back by the Blues.

    United's continued interest in a player who has just had a desperately disappointing season with Chelsea has raised eyebrows among plenty of fans, particularly given that midfield is not the most important area of the squad they need to address. Signing a world-class striker remains the club's number one priority, as Ten Hag has previously admitted, so it is baffling that there has been so little news of a serious bid for a centre-forward at this stage.

  4. The De Gea saga

    The De Gea saga

    United will also need to make a move for a goalkeeper after withdrawing their offer of a new contract for David de Gea. Most fans will agree that the club need to look beyond the Spaniard after a season beset by high-profile errors, but the U-turn makes the Red Devils look unprofessional as well as indecisive - even if it is ultimately the right call.

    It looks as if the club offered De Gea a new contract despite their reservations about his form because it would be too costly to sign a new first-choice goalkeeper in the summer, only to change their mind after his unconvincing end to the season.

    Their dilly-dallying is not only a slap in the face to the club's longest-ever serving goalkeeper and record clean sheet holder, it means they have wasted valuable time in signing a new No.1 too. Their terrible handling of the situation could well put off prospective new players from joining the club.

  5. Unwanted players return

    Unwanted players return

    A lack of new arrivals is far from United's only problem. A whole host of players are set to report back ahead of the new season knowing full well that they don't fit into Ten Hag's plans, but without their next destinations being known.

    After splashing out more than £200m on new signings last summer and using a credit facility to finance their transfer activities, the club badly need to sell players to meet UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations. The likes of Scott McTominay, Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire could attract decent transfer fees to finance some of the club's spending, but no bids have arrived as yet. Players such as Anthony Martial and Van de Beek will prove even harder to shift due to their patchy injury records

  6. Takeover adds more uncertainty
    Getty Images

    Takeover adds more uncertainty

    To cap United's transfer window troubles, there is still no indication as to when there will be an announcement on the club's takeover. It has been more than seven months since the Glazer family put United up for sale and more than four months since they first invited bids.

    According to reports, the bid from Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani is set to be approved by the Glazer family over Sir Jim Ratcliffe's INEOS group, which would see the Americans leave the club once and for all.

    While the club's future ownership remains up in the air, it is much harder for United to do serious transfer business, as budgets cannot be allocated. United's ability to sign players is also hindered by its crippling debt, which currently stands at £510.5m, despite the club announcing record revenues of £640m in their latest financial results.

    The Glazers' continued involvement in the club continues to overshadow everything. Anti-Glazer chants were the soundtrack to last season, while a number of fans staged a protest outside the Old Trafford megastore on Tuesday to mark the release of the new home kit.

    The American family have never cared much about outside opinion, but by dragging out the sale for as long as they have, they are effectively casting more uncertainty and doubt on the club at the most crucial stage of the year.