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Man Utd correcting mistakes from Mourinho’s failed £150m transfer splurge

It has taken Solskjaer 32 months to complete the rebuild at Man United, with the efforts of contracts expert Matt Judge and recruitment chief John Murtough at the centre of their business

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Ole discusses Ronaldo debut

He may be 36, but the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo back on Old Trafford territory as a player — rather than member of the opposition — is a cause for celebration at Manchester United.

Chants of ‘Viva Ronaldo’ have been led around Manchester after the Portuguese superstar completed a sensational return to his former club after 12 years away.

It marks a simply incredible transfer window for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and surely the best the club have seen since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, putting them in a prime position to challenge for the Premier League title.

In adding Ronaldo, they now have a striker who has an unbeatable record of scoring over 20 league goals in every season since the 2008-09 campaign — his last in the Premier League.



Cristiano Ronaldo has completed an emotional return to Manchester United




Throw in £73million signing Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and world-class centre-back Raphael Varane, who enjoyed a fine debut in the 1-0 win against Wolves, and the puzzle is complete.

It has taken Solskjaer 32 months to complete the rebuild at Man United, with the efforts of contracts expert Matt Judge and recruitment chief John Murtough at the centre of their business.









Mistakes made by previous managers have gradually been erased or corrected over time — only Luke Shaw remains from the signings made by Louis van Gaal in the wretched summer of 2014.

But Van Gaal is not alone. Jose Mourinho is just as culpable as the Dutchman for his part in leaving United in disarray, having spent over £150m in the summer of 2017.



Jose Mourinho spent £153m on three players in the summer of 2017 at Manchester United




Mourinho could have zero complaints about the business United did in his second summer as the Red Devils eyed their first title in five years, but ended up finishing a distant second behind Manchester City, some 18 points back from Pep Guardiola’s side.

But four years later, it can be argued that none of his signings that summer have lived up to expectations…

Romelu Lukaku — £75m



Romelu Lukaku lasted only two seasons at Old Trafford before joining Inter Milan in a £74m deal in 2019
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Image:

PA)




At the time, this £75m transfer was no mistake. It was a deal that threatened to put Man Utd back on top of English football.

Lukaku had been prolific in his three years at Everton since completing a club-record move from Chelsea in 2014.

His record of 68 goals in 141 league appearances ensured he was one of the most lethal marksman in the top flight and he saved his best season until last, notching 25 in the 2016-17 campaign.

By this point, it was clear the Belgian had outgrown the Toffees and it was between United and Chelsea. Lukaku, having already tasted life at Stamford Bridge, opted to join Mourinho’s Red Devils rather than the Premier League champions.

His first season was impressive enough, bagging 27 goals in all competitions. But a 12-game run without finding the net from the start of his second saw his confidence take a drastic turn and he was left out of the team by Mourinho.

The Portuguese was later sacked in November 2018, but Lukaku’s fortunes did not improve under interim coach Solskjaer, who preferred Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as the main protagonists of his frontline.

When Inter Milan made clear their intention to sign him in August 2019, there was little doubt in Lukaku’s mind that he wanted to go. Inter were forced to match almost the entire £75m fee to clinch the deal.

After two goal-laden seasons in Italy, Lukaku is back in England with Chelsea after completing a £97.5m transfer this summer and is set to face his former club in the coming matches as he prepares for his Old Trafford reunion.

Nemanja Matic — £40m



Nemanja Matic is into his fifth season at Manchester United but his future remains unclear




It was viewed as a huge coup for Mourinho when he lured midfield destroyer Nemanja Matic from rivals Chelsea.

The Serbian had played a pivotal role in the Blues’ two title triumphs in his three seasons in west London.

But it became clear that Matic was not suited to Antonio Conte’s tactical plans and when Man Utd arrived with a £40m offer, it was the best solution for all parties to push the move through.

Aside from his first season at the club in 2017-18 where he featured in 49 appearances in all competitions, Matic has seen his role reduced to squad player following the arrival of Fred from Shakhtar in 2018.

Now into his fifth season at Old Trafford, there are question marks over what the future represents for the 33-year-old. While his replacement Fred is yet to establish himself, Matic is struggling for game time and made only 20 appearances in the Premier League last season.

He has enjoyed an impressive pre-season for the Red Devils but reverted to warming the bench while Scott McTominay and Fred are preferred to fill the slots in the double pivot.

With two years left to run on his current deal, it seems he will be sticking around for the time being. But there will be some regrets from his side in allowing the best years of his career to almost pass him by.

Victor Lindelof — £38m



Victor Lindelof faces a battle for his place at Man Utd following the arrival of Raphael Varane




Four years ago, Mourinho identified his side’s requirement to sign a quick defender who had the potential to develop into a star name at Old Trafford.

The club had never spent £38m on a defender before and the pressure was on Lindelof to succeed after rising to prominence with Benfica.

Despite that, he had to wait two months for his debut with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones the chosen partnership at the back and was a peripheral figure in his debut campaign with only 17 league outings.

The Swede has been a constant presence since Solskjaer took over, however, missing only 20 games over the past three seasons.

But the signing of Harry Maguire in 2019 has somewhat overshadowed his achievements, with Maguire taking the captaincy and making the next step up in his career as he approaches his peak years. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether Lindelof has been a successful addition.

He faces his toughest challenge yet after Solskjaer finally recruited a long-term defensive partner for Maguire in bringing in Varane, which is likely to confine Lindelof to the substitutes’ bench.



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