Jose Mourinho was left frustrated by a lack of deadline-day activity as Manchester United failed to bring in the centre-back he craved.
After sealing deals for Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant by early July, last season’s Premier League runners-up were unable to add further despite the Portuguese’s explicit desire to bring in two more players.
Mourinho warned it could be a “difficult season” if United did not bring in at least one more face, with centre-back the main focus in a market that was inflated by last summer’s deals.
According to reports, United were ready to spend big on a world-class defender, with a £100million move for Raphael Varane considered before Real Madrid made it clear that the France international was not for sale.
A number of other centre-backs were tracked but the club found few realistic options to markedly improve their backline as they attempted to balance long-term success with Mourinho’s hunger for silverware.
The United boss had been braced for the deadline-day disappointment and warned ahead of Friday’s Premier League opener against Leicester that the lack of improvement could return to haunt them this winter.
Asked if he had the tools to compete without new signings, Mourinho said: “I have my players, I like my players, I like to work with my players.
“One lie repeated 1,000 times is still a lie, but the perception of the people is that it’s true but it’s still a lie.
“So, when you repeat 1,000 times that my relationship with my players is not good, it’s a lie that repeated 1,000 times is still a lie. But again, the perception of the people that reads can be different, but I like my players and my group.
“I enjoy the last season, the fight to finish where we finished and to manage the best position in five or six years. I’m going to enjoy this season. Again, I know the words you want me to say or not to say. It depends on the music, but words for me don’t come easy.
“I think by the end of November or December, you don’t need words – you will see by then which teams are candidates to win the Premier League.
“In this moment, words are not important. Let’s play football and by the end of November or December, you don’t need words. You will see which teams are candidates.”
United had been interested in signing Harry Maguire this summer, but Leicester’s steadfast refusal to sell scuppered any move for the England star.
Misgivings over Jerome Boateng’s fitness and Bayern Munich’s reluctance to do a loan deal ruled that option out, while Atletico Madrid were contacted about Diego Godin but it quickly became evident that the move was a no-go.
Barcelona defender Yerry Mina joined Everton as prohibitive agent demands put off United and no offer is understood to have been tabled for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld. The only one top-level conversation between the clubs was Spurs enquiring about two of United’s players.
Anthony Martial is believed to be one of them but the United forward is going nowhere, nor is compatriot Paul Pogba amid reported interest from Barcelona and supposed tensions with Mourinho.
“My perception? He arrived Monday, happy, proud, with a desire to work,” the United boss said of the club-record signing.
“He worked amazingly well Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and he’s one of the players that I have to speak to see how physically and mentally he feels. But it’s the same conversation as with (Ashley) Young, (Marouane) Fellaini, (Jesse) Lingard, it’s the same. To know how they feel physically, mentally to try to give us a help.”
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