Gary Neville believes that Manchester United’s last-minute loan deal for Odion Ighalo underlines their poor planning in the transfer market.
Former Watford striker Ighalo has spent the last three years playing in China but is heading to Old Trafford on a short-term contract until the end of the season, after United reached an agreement with Shanghai Shenhua on Friday’s Deadline Day.
The 30-year-old will provide cover for the injured frontman Marcus Rashford, but Neville is completely puzzled as to why his former club did not have long-term targets lined up following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan.
“They just needed a body in that area,” he told Sky Sports ahead of Manchester United’s meeting with Wolves. “Rashford’s going to be out for another couple of months.
“I can’t let the club off the hook though, unfortunately. Romelu Lukaku told us a couple of weeks ago that he had said he was going to leave last February or March.
“That’s nine months to be able to manoeuvre and get into a position to sign a striker for the club for the long-term. And yet they have ended up desperately doing one on Deadline Day.
“The boy may do very well. He might come in and settle in, he might score goals and do a job for the club.
“But the fact that the club were in that position, knowing that Sanchez and Lukaku were leaving for many, many months, tells us that Manchester United, at this moment in time, are struggling to navigate through the transfer market smartly.”
After United’s 0-0 draw at Wolves, where the Red Devils failed to produce a single clear-cut opportunity in the stalemate at Old Trafford, Neville added that his former club’s recruitment had specifically stalled in forward areas, despite considerable financial investment in attacking players in recent years.
“You can go back to Falcao, Di Maria, other players, Depay was young at the time, but players they’ve signed in forward areas on the pitch haven’t been good enough,” he said.
“You look at what Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham have done, and compare it to what Manchester United have done. If the recruitment is wrong you ultimately end up paying for it.
“The gameplan today was fine from United. If you were playing with Messi, Suarez and Neymar up front you’d probably play the same way against Wolves. You’d control the game and wait for that moment and one of your front three would go and deliver for you. United don’t have that front three at the moment who can go and provide that moment of magic.
“They’ve signed Ighalo – maybe he can give a bit more presence in terms of putting crosses into the box.
“The fact is, United were chasing a goal at 0-0 and they’ve had to bring on Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot, that tells you exactly where Manchester United are at.
“The big problem with recruitment is I’m not quite sure who is in charge over the last seven or eight years. Who is behind the scenes spotting the players, making sure they are ahead of the game?”