Manchester United are soon to join the ranks of teams signing colossal cheques this window with the purchase of midfielder Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao.
United are believed to have met the Basque side’s valuation for the player of £30.5 million.
Besides insisting on United meeting the player’s release clause, Bilbao, who are developing a reputation as a tough nut to crack in the transfer market, are said to have asked for a single cash payment and a friendly with United to help defray the cost of building their new stadium, which is being erected on the footprint of their beloved old San Mames ground.
In exchange, United will receive an addition to their midfield ranks not a minute too soon, given the lack of creative flowering at Anfield, where they were beaten by a far from stellar Liverpool team.
That 1-0 defeat also undermined the Red Devils’ title pretensions, as after battering Swansea on the opening day, United have now taken on two upper echelon rivals who have set out to defend and been able to contain the reigning champions with ease.
So with three games played, just four points tabled and a rare double failure to find the back of the net, the Old Trafford purchasing department has finally started dealing.
The Spaniard is unquestionably a good player, having already impressed at Old Trafford on Champions League duty, yet he has no full international recognition and no club bigger than Athletic on his CV, so it is perhaps unrealistic to expect him to be the catalyst to transform United’s unremarkable start.
United now find themselves firmly behind their sky blue neighbours Manchester City and Chelsea in the title race, where they can be backed at 7/2 to retain the Premier League crown. Given the events of recent days, punters may be wary of snapping that up.
The last time United harvested just four points from their first three games though (in 2008/09), they went on to win the league.