If Manchester United miss out on Champions League qualification this season, having seemingly had a top four finish within their grasp until a run of three successive defeats, the transfer dealings of Louis van Gaal will come under intense scrutiny.
Darren Fletcher, who captained West Bromwich Albion to victory against United on Saturday, is a prime example of a player allowed to leave too soon by Van Gaal.
Javier Hernandez, whose recent flurry of goals on loan for Real Madrid have helped cover up a difficult season in La Liga, would arguably have scored more than the four goals contributed by Falcao this term, while Danny Welbeck may also have offered greater options up-front than the unproven James Wilson, who has barely featured under Van Gaal.
But Fletcher’s versatility and reliability were allowed to leave Old Trafford for The Hawthorns in January, despite United having just two players — Michael Carrick and Daley Blind — capable of performing successfully as a holding midfielder.
Fletcher would not have played every week had he stayed, but his value to the squad would have been borne out during Carrick’s recent absences, if only because his presence would have spared Van Gaal from having to deploy Wayne Rooney in midfield.
Van Gaal was right to conclude that Fletcher was not the future for United, but with Champions League qualification a must this season, perhaps it was unwise to weaken the squad by allowing the Scot to leave.