Oh, Manchester United. Haven’t we been over this already?

Fresh off the embarrassment of getting booted from the Champions League in the group stage, United are again scrambling to reassert their status as one of the world’s greatest clubs that hosts some of the world’s greatest players—a level they’ve slipped from since the day Alex Ferguson announced his retirement. Since the results on the pitch don’t exactly back up this vision of United as peers of the sport’s super elite clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich, they now want you to know that they’re very serious about bringing in a superstar or three to improve their lot in life.

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Thus we get a Times exclusive (*runs it back 12 times, adds in a bunch of Funk Flex bombs*), by way of ESPNFC, that the Red Devils are hot in pursuit of Neymar, Gareth Bale, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Each of them individually, of course, but maybe even all three. Yes, that is as literally unbelievable as it sounds.

The ESPNFC article mentions how difficult financially each move alone would be, let alone all three, but United remain undeterred:

However, the story goes on to say that the club’s brass feels the product on the pitch “lacks stardust,” and any of the above names would qualify there. All but Anthony Martial have failed to deliver on some lofty summer fees and even loftier expectations for the 2015-16 campaign.

The deal breaker for any of these high-profile names making a Premier League move could come down in large part to the competitive nature of England’s top flight. Many players are wary of the limitations and demands that can come from playing in perhaps the most physical and competitive league in the world. A senior United source told The Times: “They know if they play in La Liga they can score 40 or more goals, but in the Premier League you’re probably looking at 20 to 25.”

We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: Neymar and Bale are not going anywhere any time soon, and especially not to United, for a variety of reasons. And while Ronaldo is probably closer to legitimately leaving Madrid than he’s ever been since he arrived, the mooted PSG move makes a lot more sense than a return to Manchester.

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That United are chasing these guys and the reasons why it’s dumb to think they have anything more than the slightest shot at landing them is nothing new. What’s interesting about the story today is everything else besides that.

This story doesn’t exist to alert readers to Man U’s internal transfer discussions. Hell, the club itself probably doesn’t even buy what they’re selling here. This story is a blatant attempt to get Man U’s name back amongst the sport’s best after their Champions League debacle earlier this week. It’s to try to change the discussion about the club from “Hahaha, did you see how mighty Manchester fell flat on their faces yet again!” to “Whoa, United are really serious about being the world’s best, and they might be able to do it!”

Ignore for a second how unlikely it is that Real Madrid or Barcelona would want to sell these guys, and all the reasons why the players themselves wouldn’t want to come; why would United target these players specifically? Ronaldo, Neymar, and Bale are all goal-scoring wingers who prefer to play on the left. You know who that’s also true for? Manchester’s own Memphis Depay, the super young, super talented Dutch winger many believe could develop into something approximating Ronaldo. And you know who else often fills that position? Manchester’s own Anthony Martial, another super young and super talented forward the club threw an insane amount of money out the window to bring over.

Depay hasn’t quite hit the ground running in his first season in England, and for as promising as Martial has looked, he still has a long way to go before potentially becoming a European Cup-contending team’s best player. However, United would be crazy to light even more money on fire to bring in even one of these La Liga stars. United should focus on getting the best out of those guys and bringing in better players to compliment them, not look to replace them.

United’s leadership isn’t dumb; they have to know all this as well as anyone else, which is why you should think there’s something else going on here. They even offer a preemptive excuse for why they will probably fail on all three fronts, and it’s as self-serving as the rest of it.

The only thing that might keep Neymar from prancing around England next year, the club would like you to believe, is his vain concern for his goalscoring numbers in the big bad Premier League. Really? That’s what it is? Not the fact that he, like Bale and Ronaldo, is already a centerpiece for one of the biggest and best teams in the world and would be crazy to leave that for a club that hasn’t looked very good for years now and currently plays in the goddamn Europa League? It’s not just nonsense, it’s carefully crafted nonsense, meant to get you to believe something unbelievable to distract you from reality and get you to think better of them.

Look, United aren’t all that far away from being where they want. They should continue developing the good young players they’ve amassed over the last couple years, focus on bringing in more players of that Depay and Martial profile, and when Louis van Gaal or the next coach reaps the rewards of the tough but necessary work they’ve been doing since Sir Alex left, they really will be an attractive destination for established superstars. But they really gotta cut out the bullshit in the meantime. It only makes them look worse.

[ESPNFC]

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