Manchester United continue to ignore Aldeweireld, fixate on Maguire
Background photo: Steve Buissine
Until last week, my favourite grocer had a café at the store’s main entrance. At a downtown corner one block from the county courthouse, you could walk in at the traffic light, stop at the liquor store or walk through the atrium to the café and grocer itself. There was also a moving sidewalk [like you might find at Heathrow or any large, sprawling airport] to take shoppers and their filled carts back to [and from] their cars in the overhead garage.
The market decided to outsource the café to Starbucks and exchange the moving sidewalk for a bank of elevators. They closed the atrium except for three tables outside the liquor store. It’s fun to grab a pastry and juice in the morning, walk around the outside of the store to sit at one of those tables, if available, and watch people who don’t know about the construction stroll past the posted signs to confront the obstacle for the first time.
A few don’t even blink before making an about-face but the majority need a moment or two to process this new development. Then there is another small group who cannot absorb the information at all. Despite people sitting at the tables with grocery items, they need to be told they’ll find the store open if they go around.
Interestingly, a person’s appearance doesn’t predict their mental adaptability. Labourers from nearby construction sites, secretaries, defendants, down-on-their-luck homeless people and high-priced lawyers alike fall into all three groups. Some from each demographic will be flummoxed by the drywall and plastic impeding their passage. Even a few police officers ask table occupants how to reach the store or, indeed, if it’s even open. It’s difficult to imagine them passing the detective’s exam.
Deciphering your favourite club’s intent in the transfer market can be like finding a barrier where you thought there would be a clear path into the new season. In many cases, guessing correctly ought to earn you a detective’s badge. Take Manchester United’s hunt for a top central defender. Their way barred, they seem disinterested in exploring an alternate route.
Since June, the club chases relentlessly after England international Harry Maguire. Leicester City set a high valuation on their star, rumoured to be between £70-80 million. Despite pressure from the Red Devils, they cling to that number like Kate Winslet clinging to life on her floating door in the North Atlantic at the end of Titanic.
Critics often gripe that Leonardo di Caprio would have fit on the door as well. He didn’t have to slowly freeze to death and sink into the depths. He could have climbed on and lived a happy life with his lover in America. In other words, there was a way around.
In the same vein, Leicester and United may actually come to an agreement after which Maguire can walk through a door that leads to a bright, new future. The captain of the defender’s current Titanic, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, claims Maguire’s future isn’t that dark at the King Power and the club needn’t sell. Where there should be a door, he’s put up drywall, plastic and detour signs so he can laugh as Ed Woodward attempts to get at Harry Maguire.
Meanwhile, United fans fret their club will sink into the abyss that is life outside the Premier League top four if they do not sign the big-headed [in the good way] England centre-half. They do so despite another excellent option’s existence. Until midnight GMT, last night, the club could have purchased Toby Alderweireld from Tottenham for roughly a third of the Leicester star’s price.
The release clause in the Belgian’s contract allowed him to leave North London for £25 million before the witching hour. At 30, Alderwiereld is four years the elder and he’s not British. That makes him less ideal to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s project but still more than serviceable. United could have acquired him as a temporary solution and come in for Maguire again at a future date.
In fact, they still can. If the way to Maguire is barred, United can sign Alderweireld albeit for a higher fee. The Spurs man isn’t off the market just because the £25 million release clause expired. Reports claim he can still be had for £40 million. Without a doubt, Ed Woodward and co would take the stick for spending £15 million more than necessary but at least they would have a world-class defender in front of David de Gea. They just have to be willing to go around rather than through Leicester’s closed door to get what they want.
The transfer window closes on 8 August. United cannot wait that long to trigger either player’s release clause. Leicester, especially, will not have time to sign a replacement. Spurs have options in-house, including Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth and defensive midfielder Eric Dier. Even so, they could unplug their fax machine simply to spite a top-four rival.
Thanks to broadcasting rights, there’s enough money in the Premier League that no club can be bullied. Leicester can name their price and hold firm. Manchester United can either pay or keep treading in icy cold waters.
But why remain so intent on one way out when there are two? Is Ed Woodward stubbornly clinging to the notion that Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are as good as either Maguire or Alderweireld and using the former as a smokescreen? One can only hope not. When Ed hits the iceberg to which that choice leads, he’ll be the captain who brought United’s ship down with him.