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25th Jul 2018

The reason Man United won’t sign Ivan Perisic shows why the club is getting it wrong

The club's decision making on transfers has been odd at times

Robert Redmond

“I don’t know why he didn’t come to Manchester when I wanted him,” Jose Mourinho said on RT during the World Cup

The Manchester United manager was speaking about Ivan Perisic after the Croatian’s performance in the last-16 tie against Denmark. Mourinho’s frustration was evident and it surely only increased as the tournament progressed in Russia.

Perisic was one of the best players at the World Cup. He scored a brilliant equaliser against England in the semi-finals, and then played a crucial role in setting up the decisive goal, winning a header that knocked the ball into the path of Mario Mandzukic, who scored past Jordan Pickford.

In the final against France he equalised with a brilliant strike, creating space on the edge of the opposition penalty area before smashing the ball home with his left foot. No one at the tournament covered more ground than the Inter Milan winger (72.5km). Perisic is exactly the type of player Mourinho loves – tall, athletic, direct and experienced.

However, the United manager has been unable to sign him. Last summer, a deal appeared to be close for the 29-year-old. Perisic was reportedly intent on moving to Old Trafford.

Inter were experiencing some financial issues relating to Financial Fair Play and were prepared to sell the player if United met their valuation of around £49m. United reportedly only offered £45m and the deal didn’t get over the line. The richest club in the world wouldn’t pay another couple of million for their manager’s transfer target.

A year later, Inter have qualified for the Champions League and don’t have any FFP issues. After Perisic’s performances in Russia, and the inflation in transfer prices, they reportedly value him at £80m. If United weren’t prepared to pay an extra few million last summer, they aren’t going to pay such a fee for a player who will be 30 next February.

Yet, according to Miguel Delaney, writing in The Independent, United would be willing to pay such a fee for another 29-year-old – Gareth Bale. Or rather, Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman will sanction a transfer for the Real Madrid forward because he has “star power”.

According to Delaney: “A common source of irritation for Mourinho has been how the club so often pursues players of certain ‘names’, rather than those of certain qualities that he wants. Had they actually completed a deal for Cristiano Ronaldo, for example – although that was never considered realistic this summer – the manager would not have expected the funds for it to come out of his budget.”

It appears that the manager and the main decision-maker at Old Trafford aren’t on the same page. Mourinho wants functional players who will improve his team and follow his instructions. Woodward is interested in signing star names who can boost United’s brand.

There is an obvious conflict of interests and it sums up why United have been getting their recruitment wrong at times over the past few years. It also shows that the club is in desperate need of a director of football.

It now appears pretty clear that, if it was Mourinho’s money, he wouldn’t have spent £90m on Paul Pogba, a player of great talent and fame, but not the obedient soldier the United manager wants in his team. He’s right to be unhappy over the Perisic deal collapsing because of a few million pounds last summer. But he also hasn’t helped himself at times.

He is seeking to sign another central defender and has reportedly even considered signing Gary Cahill from Chelsea. Yet, just 12 months ago United signed Victor Lindelof from Benfica for around £30m. Lindelof didn’t impress at Old Trafford last season. But surely Cahill isn’t the solution.

United’s transfer approach has been muddled and doesn’t bode well for the upcoming season. Mourinho also seems tetchy and refused to answer a question about United’s title hopes for the new season. If he doesn’t get some of the players he wants, and move on some players who aren’t in his plans, Mourinho will undoubtedly start the season in a terrible mood. Another third season Mourinho meltdown, as what happened at Chelsea and Real Madrid, might not be too far away.