As the clock struck five on Thursday evening, Manchester United fans’ last hopes of another new signing slowly trickled away.
United’s most pressing issue – their defence – had already been addressed earlier in the window, with big-money moves for both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire.
With the back-four overhauled, it was expected that United would make one or two signings in the attacking third of the pitch, especially after Romelu Lukaku’s departure.
As the window closed, £15million winger Daniel James remained United’s only attacking signing.
Many of the Old Trafford faithful took to social media to vent their frustration at the owner, and in some cases the manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, for their failure to bring in any midfield or attacking options.
Rewind six years though, and United fans were feeling a different kind of disappointment. On deadline day in 2013, David Moyes signed Everton attacker Marouane Fellaini for £27.5million – a player who went on to figurehead some of the club’s worst seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The acquisition of Fellaini was the epitome of a ‘panic buy’ – United had failed to sign their primary targets, and ended up overpaying at the last minute for a player who wasn’t really suited to the team, or the club.
This is the type of signing Solskjaer has vowed to avoid ever since his permanent appointment in March, but it would’ve been easy for the Norwegian to break that promise on hectic deadline day on Thursday.
Arsenal secured deals for Kieran Tierney and David Luiz before Tottenham brought in Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso.
Despite his rivals’ extravagance, Solskjaer remained unnerved and refused to part with the considerable amount of cash at his disposal, generated by Lukaku’s £73million move to Inter Milan.
Solskjaer will be aware that his decision not to bring in any attacking options will be scrutinised over the next few weeks, but he was never appointed to silence critics for the short-term.
His philosophy has always been to rebuild United on a core of young, hungry British players – a philosophy that was unanimously accepted by the fanbase.
So, by signing a foreign attacker on deadline day for an extortionate fee, Solskjaer would be undermining everything that he preaches.
Instead, his lack of activity on Thursday was a tremendous show of faith to the young players who are already at the club.
Anthony Martial has already been reinstated as the club’s number nine since Lukaku’s departure; both on the pitch, and on his shirt.
Perhaps this could be the confidence boost the Frenchman needs in order to fulfil his sky-high potential.
Martial was often condemned for his poor performances last season, but it should be considered that he was stripped of his shirt number after Lukaku’s arrival in 2017, before being banished to the left-wing. Any young players confidence would be knocked by that kind of treatment.
So instead of signing a multi-million-pound striker to replace Lukaku, Solskjaer has simply reinstated someone who was signed to play that position five years ago – a move that will surely be positive for both the present and the future of the club.
Marcus Rashford will provide cover upfront when Martial is unavailable, switching in from the left-hand side, but it is the form of another academy graduate in pre-season that persuaded Solskjaer to let Lukaku go without a replacement.
17-year-old Mason Greenwood was a standout performer on United’s tour and demonstrated the goalscoring ability he has shown throughout the age groups in the academy.
Greenwood is a natural finisher, and comfortable playing right across the front three. His promotion to the first-team this year will not only replace Lukaku as another option upfront but add pace and trickery on the right-wing that United were missing last season.
Had Solskjaer bit the bullet and signed a big-money striker last week, Greenwood’s chances at United would’ve been significantly more limited. Instead, he will be an important member of the squad and will improve vastly from that experience.
Another player who will add diversity on the wings is Taith Chong. The Dutchman is another of United’s most promising academy graduates, and can also provide cover on both flanks.
Chong was another impressive performer on pre-season, and his chances of game time this term will also be boosted by Solskjaer’s lack of transfer activity in the attacking third.
One particular name on the lips of United fans this summer was Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese international was heavily linked with the club in the last few months, and many fans saw him as the ideal midfield signing.
The deal for Fernandes never materialised though, but one man at United who will be quietly content about that will be youngster Angel Gomes. Gomes’ preferred position is just behind the striker – exactly where Fernandes would’ve played.
Instead of competing with a £70million man for a starting spot though, Gomes will be looking to displace Jesse Lingard or Andreas Pereira – two players who the young Englishman has the potential to outshine, given the chance.
At the current time though, none of Gomes, Greenwood or Chong, are at the same level as the players Solskjaer could’ve brought to the club this summer. In a few years though, they will be as good, if not better.
Jadon Sancho is a prime example of the mistake United and Solskjaer could’ve easily made. Sancho’s route to the first team at Manchester City was blocked by big-money signings and subsequently moved to Borussia Dortmund for a nominal fee.
Since then, he has progressed rapidly thanks to regular game time and has become a player worth upwards of £100million.
If United were to buy Fernandes and others this summer, they would’ve risked Gomes, Greenwood and Chong leaving in search of playing time.
What would be more frustrating for United fans? A quiet transfer window, or watching three youth academy graduates become £100million players at another club?
Modern supporters often lack patience, but that’s perhaps exactly what United supporters need if they want a squad reminiscent of the Fergie days.