Analysis: £255m spent but which of Manchester’s footballing giants won the window?

14 players in. 33 players out. An estimated £255million spent.

It’s been a busy old transfer window in Manchester, as both United and City have splashed the cash to close the gap on last season’s champions, Chelsea.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal looked to be on his way to a successful summer, when Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin all signed by mid-July.

But the David De Gea debacle, combined with the world-record fee for a teenager paid for French starlet Anthony Martial – both coming in the final two days of the window – left the Old Trafford club’s business feeling rushed and, perhaps, desperate.

On the other hand, the blue half of Manchester have received plaudits for the measured way that they have gone about business this summer, although that composure has come at the expense of a record transfer outlay – £158.5million.

That has gone on talent including the lavishly talented Belgian attacker Kevin de Bruyne, who will be hoping to make more of an impact than he managed in his two years at Chelsea, and Liverpool’s flying winger Raheem Sterling, whose £49million price tag has been questioned, but whose impact on City’s football since the season’s start cannot be.

Here, MM takes an in-depth look into where the money went, and what fans from both teams can now expect from the year to come.

Manchester United

Before the window opened, Van Gaal set out his aim of achieving ‘a balance of selection’.

That entailed bolstering the midfield, which had been a source of weakness since Roy Keane’s departure in 2005, a new right-back to ease the burden on Antonio Valencia, who performed admirably in the role without ever appearing natural, and bolstering the club’s attacking options.

Two of those issues have been comprehensively addressed, with Italian right-back Darmian looking like a spectacular find, strong in the tackle and energetic going forward, and tongue-teasing duo Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin adding class, experience and grit to the intelligence of Michael Carrick and the technique of Ander Herrera.

However, the early-season misfiring of Wayne Rooney, combined with the departure of Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj, has left United with a paucity of options up-front, and 19-year-old Martial will have to shoulder a large burden, especially if Rooney gets injured.

Big things are also expected of Memphis Depay, and the 20-year-old Dutch winger showed the depth of his talent with two stunning finishes against Club Brugge in the Champions League.

However, he has failed to fire in the first four league games of the season, and United’s options beyond these two new, delicately-aged talents look sparse.

Van Gaal has claimed that Marouane Fellaini will be considered as a striker for the season – a statement that can be described as bewildering at best – whilst academy product James Wilson has failed to make the bench so far this campaign.

And then to the goalkeeper.

Which ‘keeper will take his place between the sticks when United return from the international break is a question made complex by the farcical events of the past two months.

From the collapse of the De Gea transfer to Real Madrid, to the exile of Victor Valdes for refusing to turn out for the reserve side, to the signing of Sampdoria back-up Sergio Romero, scarcely has a single department of a team been embroiled with such drama and confusion.

Van Gaal seems to have had lined up Keylor Navas as his preferred number one – the Costa Rican set to be included in the deal for De Gea from Madrid – but if the Bernabeu side were so keen to replace him, why would he be good enough for United?

The Old Trafford side are certainly in a better position than they were this time last season – provided they can convince De Gea to give his all for one last year – but for all the money spent since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, it is still hard to claim that United are set to seriously challenge for the title once more.

Manchester City

Midway through last season, speculation was rife that Manuel Pellegrini would not be Manchester City’s manager now, and that even if he was, he would merely be keeping the seat warm for Pep Guardiola’s eventual arrival.

Whether that is the case or not, Pellegrini has certainly been given the backing of the club’s owners if the club’s transfer expenditure is anything to go off.

The £158.5million spent has bought the Chilean just four players ready for the first team squad, with Fulham’s prodigiously talented Patrick Roberts one of three signings slotting into the under-21 side.

Of those, three are yet to make their debuts, with De Bruyne’s purchase being the most eye-catching.

Peripheral during his time in London, the Belgian attacker’s single year at Wolfsburg brought him ten goals and 20 assists, prompting City to pay a spectacular fee for a man deemed by Chelsea to be worth just £18million 18 months earlier.

Whether that development is due to a progression in De Bruyne’s talents, the role he was offered in Wolfsburg’s team, or the difference in standard between the English and German leagues remains to be seen.

Nicolas Otamendi has been brought in for another massive fee (£32million) to solve City’s defensive frailties, but has been forced to watch from the bench so far, as Eliaquim Mangala has shown the sort of form this season that encouraged City to part with the same fee for him last year.

And finally Fabian Delph has arrived from Aston Villa, in controversial circumstances, after declaring one week that he would certainly not part with the club with whom he had signed a new contract months earlier, before changing his mind a week later.

The 25-year-old England international is unlikely to make an impression on the City first-team, and it is hard to look past the fact that he may well have been bought to replace James Milner – as both an squad midfielder and a quota-fulfilling Englishman.

The number of young English players tempted from respectable clubs to bench warm at ‘bigger’ sides is blight on the modern game, and Delph has joined Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier in falling for this trap once more this window.

Regardless of Delph’s naivety, it is hard to look past the fact that City are definitely stronger this season, and £49million-man Sterling’s influence has been pivotal in their perfect start to the season.

The ex-Liverpool star’s willingness to run at and behind defences has created space for his new, ludicrously talented teammate David Silva to operate in, and if De Bruyne can perform a similar role on the right flank, it may be hard to stop them from securing a third title in five years.

Main image courtesy of Sky Sports via YouTube, with thanks.

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