The signing of Radamel Falcao sent a clear message to the rest of the world – Manchester United are still part of the football elite, says club legend Peter Schmeichel.
United pulled off the sensational signing when they captured Falcao on a season-long loan on a dramatic deadline-day.
The Colombian, 28, is one the hottest properties in world football, and United beat off interest from Manchester City, Arsenal and Juventus to secure his signature.
Schmeichel believes that in signing Falcao, who scored more than 100 goals in his first three seasons in European football, United made a clear statement to their rivals – they may be down, but they are not out.
JUGGERNAUT: Falcao was wanted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs (Image courtesy of Football Daily, via YouTube, with thanks)
“In signing him, the message that’s been sent, I think mostly from Falcao’s side, is that Manchester United is still a club that is worth going to,” Schmeichel told MM.
“He could have picked any club and any club would have paid for him. Any club would have taken him.
“That’s the calibre of player he is, but he chose Manchester United, which is hugely important.”
When you look at Falcao’s goal record it becomes evident why his services were in such high demand.
Falcao was fundamental in guiding Porto to a second Europa League title in 2011, scoring 17 goals, surpassing Jürgen Klinsmann’s record of 15 goals in a single European campaign.
He also picked up the Portuguese Golden Ball award, as Porto finished the 2010-11 Primeira Liga season undefeated.
After moving to Atlético Madrid for €40million in 2011, he played a key role in Madrid’s 12-match winning streak in the Europa League, scoring a brace in the final to clinch the trophy.
After signing from Monaco last summer for £50million, he notched up 11 goals in 20 appearances, though cruciate ligament damage to his knee cut his season short, ruling him out of the World Cup.
CHAMPION: Falcao has seen success wherever he has gone (Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, with thanks)
After just one season for Monaco, it looked as though the highly rated Colombian was set to join Real Madrid, before United stunned the world by announcing his signature.
Of course Falcao wasn’t United’s only marquee signing of the summer.
United smashed the British transfer record when they paid Real Madrid £59.7million for Ángel Di María.
While Schmeichel believes the Argentine’s arrival was an altogether different scenario, the message, he argues, is exactly on point.
“Di Maria was different, because we paid an awful lot of money for him, so it’s a different prospect but of course it is a signal,” Schmeichel said.
“He’s a big, big player, it’s the biggest transfer fee in England, and he came to Manchester United, I think that’s important.
“But signing Falcao, it just underlines that Manchester United are still there. We can compete with any club in the world in the transfer market, and we will now turn out attention to football.”
And that right there is where the problems lie – the football.
After a successful pre-season, hopes were high that Van Gaal, who led the Dutch side to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Brazil, could turn around United’s fortunes.
RECORD BREAKER: United smashed the British transfer record for Di Maria (Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, with thanks)
Any hopes of starting the season with a bang quickly materialised into nothing more than a whimper.
The new-look United suffered an opening day defeat to Swansea, before scraping a point against Sunderland then limping to a 0-0 draw against newly promoted Burnley.
Van Gaal also had to endure the humilation of being knocked out of the League Cup at the first round, after they were thumped 4-0 by MK Dons.
It was a stark reminder that Van Gaal has an astronomical job on his hands, and reinforced the belief by many within the game that the Dutchman’s predecessor, David Moyes, had not been given the time that was necessary to rebuild this crumbling side.
“Last year, I don’t blame David Moyes at all,” said Schmeichel.
“I don’t think he had a fair crack at it. Last year just took a turn for the worse and he didn’t have the connection with those players that Sir Alex had. I don’t think anyone would have had that with those players.
“He paid the price, but also the club paid the price. The squad was not good enough last year, so what was left for David Moyes was not good enough and unfortunately, we’ve gone backwards.
“But that’s ok, as long as I know we’re going forward, as long as I know that we will get into that position again, where the guys across the road will be constantly looking over their shoulders.”
Indeed the arrival of Di Maria and Falcao, who looks set to make his debut against QPR this afternoon, will have certainly made their city rivals sit up and take notice.
DISASTER: David Moyes’ United tenure was catastrophic (Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, with thanks)
Their arrival has also brought hope that United are on the verge of a new era, words echoed by the club’s chief executive Ed Woodward.
But for Schmeichel, a crucial player in one of United’s most successful periods during the 90s and part of the treble-winning side of ’99, there is no quick fix.
He believes Van Gaal simply must be given time to build something great, a luxury that was not afforded to his predecessor.
“Louis van Gaal has been successful everywhere he’s been,” he said. “He is very confident in his own skills, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be able to make United great again.
“The only question I ask is, are we patient enough? Are we going to give him time? Will he be under pressure in two weeks time? Is he going to win the next four games to calm things?
“For me it’s much more important that for the long run, we create something which is as strong as what we’ve had, rather than compromise for a quick fix.
“I don’t need us to win the next four games. I want to win the next four years. So I’m ok with fourth or fifth this year. I don’t care.
“As long as I know we’re on the right track and we’re going to get back and win four on the trot.”
Falcao’s arrival was the final piece in a manic summer in the transfer market for United as they desperately tried to rebuild following last season’s horror show.
GREAT DANE: Schmeichel saw significant success at United (Image courtesy of Sky Sports, via YouTube, with thanks)
Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo all moved to Manchester this summer.
Patrice Evra, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa have moved in the other direction, while Tom Cleverley, Wilfried Zaha, Nani, Javier Hernandez and Nick Powell have all been shipped out on loan.
After many years as the bedrock of United’s defence, and success, club captain Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand were both allowed to leave the club.
Never before has there been so much movement within the Old Trafford ranks.
“He’s bought a lot of players, more players than I can ever remember being brought in, in one summer,” said Schmeichel.
“So that in itself, it’s positive that we can compete, but it’s also a problem.
“Van Gaal needs to make everybody happy, and players who are not confident, it doesn’t take much to push them over the edge. So he’s got to be very careful, and this is a big test of his managerial skills.
“We’ve got fantastic players, we just need the manager now to get them mingling, and playing attractive and very effective football, and hopefully we will start picking up wins.
“You have to remember, last season was a humiliation for a lot of players. A lot of those players are still there, and they still feel that.
“So for the first time in many, many years, confidence is an issue at Manchester United. It hasn’t been, but now it is.”
Main image courtesy of FA TV, via YouTube, with thanks.