Steve Bruce facing awkward questions at Newcastle United as dust settles on transfer window
Newcastle United face an unenviable task at Old Trafford.
The club is winless in the Premier League and out of the Carabao Cup – and Steve Bruce will be without key players for Saturday’s game.
And Bruce is in an unenviable position as he prepares for the fixture – and tomorrow’s pre-match press conference.
The game, which is set to see Cristiano Ronaldo make his second Manchester United debut, is the first since the transfer window closed on August 31 without the club adding another senior player to its squad following the £20million-plus arrival of midfielder Joe Willock in July.
Newcastle’s squad has arguably been weakened, not strengthened, this summer following the departures of Andy Carroll and Christian Atsu following the expiry of their deals. Matty Longstaff also left the club on loan.
The club’s failure to sign another first-team player late in the window reportedly left Bruce – who was the subject of chants from fans for him to go during the club’s last outing, the 2-2 home draw against Southampton – “bruised and battered”.
Bruce had pushed to sign Leicester City midfielder Hamza Choudhury on loan, but the deal didn’t get done. Choudhury alone, however, wouldn’t have significantly strengthened a squad which looks short of cover for striker Callum Wilson, who is doubtful for the game with a “niggling” thigh problem.
A lengthy and unattributed statement issued by United, which has to balance its books because of owner Mike Ashley’s unwillingness to invest a penny more in the club, which addressed its “approach” to the window seemed to be aimed as much at Bruce as a disillusioned fanbase. The club’s finances have also been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
There were pointed references in the statement to the summer’s budget – and also the club’s net spend since Bruce took charge two years ago.
The statement read: “Internally, all parties have long been aware of the budgetary parameters under which we are operating.
“Ahead of the summer transfer window, Joe Willock was identified as the club’s primary target. Once it was confirmed that the player would be available on a permanent deal, a collaborative decision was taken to pursue this option. All parties were aware as to the implications for further squad consolidation.”
It was seen as a post-window slap down for Bruce, who, in contrast to Rafa Benitez, his predecessor, hasn’t been critical in public of United’s transfer policy.
Bruce, expected to be without Miguel Almiron after Paraguay complained to FIFA over Newcastle’s failure to release him during the international break, will address the club’s efforts in the window ahead of the visit to Old Trafford, where he will be assured of a warm welcome given his efforts for the club during his playing career.
United’s head coach – who demanded more “respect” from journalists during an 11-game league and cup winless run last season – will face some awkward questions before setting off for the North West.
And the club’s hierarchy will following his answers as closely as the club’s supporters.