United’s director of football David Holdsworth confirmed today that work is ongoing behind the scenes as the football department looks to add to the squad ahead of the new campaign, with talks with agents and representatives already having led to some successful conclusions.
“A lot of our work has been done with the way we structured our deals with some of the players last summer, and at Christmas, and that’s already well documented,” he told us. “But, having said that, it’s still a busy period for us.
“We are very pleased with the fact that we have good players on our books for next season. It helps us with continuity and stability, and that’s isn’t something we’ve had for a number of years here at this club.
“It’s a pleasing aspect that we don’t have a great turnover of players. Obviously we do have places to fill as we look to bolster the squad, so this current period brings with it constant work in terms of dealing with agents, and representatives, and in making sure that we’re looking at the right people.
“We’ve been successful with a number of deals so far, which will become apparent in the near future. It’s all exciting for us as a club, and for our supporters, but the way football contracts are structured means that we will hold back on those announcements, as we did last summer, until the time is right for all parties.”
With captain Nick Anderton having turned down his contract offer to join Bristol Rovers, and striker Ozzy Zanzala having joined Barrow today, it leaves Rhys Bennett, Paul Farman and Omari Patrick as players who had deals presented at the end of the season and who are yet to reply.
“Nick was a great captain for us, and a great lad, but as for any player who chooses to move on, we wish them well,” he commented. “We made the offer because we felt he had a place here, but he chose to look elsewhere.
“That’s the same with Ozzy. He came in having been given a chance to play regularly by us and he enjoyed his time up here.
“It’s no problem for us at all if these players turn us down, it’s all part of what football is. Offers were made to these lads and we were very happy with what was presented because, like I say, they were all good lads for us last season.
“We made very good offers to them but if they decide to go for more money elsewhere we will always respect that. We do our business privately, and we know the players show respect to us for that and, if they do move on, they will always go with our thanks and best wishes.
“There’s no pressure on any of the other three, they’ll do what they feel is right. For us it’s all about looking forward to the future and we feel really positive about where we are.
“We’ve also said goodbye to the loan players, but the lads we had last season were always going back to their parent clubs, that’s part and parcel of the deals you make.
“A big thank you goes to JJ [Kayode] and Ethan [Walker] for the way they applied themselves when they were with us, and we thank their clubs for allowing them to join us. They contributed a great deal and we know they learned a lot from their time with us.”
Speaking more about the places left to fill, he added: “We’ve gone in for two players from high profile clubs, one in Scotland and one in the Premier League, and we’ll see if that comes to fruition.
“That’ll probably in early July. That’s when their clubs will back in training and deciding what they want to be doing with their squads. Patience is always needed at this time of year, but we always stay calm whatever the situation.
“When it comes to the type of player, as you’ve seen from last season we want fast, dynamic attacking forwards and players across the park who can work tirelessly for the full 90 minutes.
“We want more goals from forward areas, and we want players who can create chances for themselves and for others.
“The midfield is settled, when you think about it, with the likes of Callum Guy, Joe Riley and Jon Mellish joined by Dany Devine, who had his injury that got in the way, Taylor Charters and Josh Dixon.
“We still talk about those last two as ‘young lads’ but they’re at an age and stage in their careers now where they aren’t young any more. They’re actually men, and the opportunity is there for them to step up.
“In other areas we have an emerging keeper in Magnus Norman, and there’s George Tanner, Jack Armer, Morgan Feeney – who will hopefully be injury free – and Aaron Hayden and Rod McDonald, who enjoyed playing together.
“Up front we have Lewi Alessandra, Brennan Dickenson and Gime Toure who all provide good and different options, so we already have a lot to be excited about.
“It’s still a relatively young squad that is learning and getting better and better all the time, and you can see how much it means to them to pull on our shirt. That’s important, and any players we add will feed off that.”
And on the current nature of the seemingly quiet spell, in terms of news that can be published, he said: “I can assure everyone that the work we do on the recruitment side of things is constant.
“We’re looking at players continuously, with just about all of the retained and released lists now published, because even when you think you’ve done your work something can crop up that grabs your attention.
“It can come across as being a quiet time, and we accept that some people can get frustrated by that, but we can also assure you that we’re very happy with where we are.
“As the weeks go by you’ll find that we can start to announce things and let people know what it is we’ve been working towards. I’ve said it so many times before that we know where we are as a club and we won’t do anything that puts us at risk.
“Maybe we have to work a little bit harder within that, but that’s something we don’t mind doing. Chris [Beech] knows that and he picks out the players he feels will contribute and who will be part of what we want to achieve next season, which is to continue improving and pushing on. We will always support his efforts with that as much as we can.
“We’ll have news soon, so we are asking for a little bit more patience, but we’re always going to do things at the right time, in the right way, and that can sometimes mean that we have to wait for a few weeks more than even we would perhaps like to.
“Thank you once again to the fans for understanding that we want to do things right and that nothing should ever get in the way of that.”