Amid the backdrop of the financial uncertainty surrounding football as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this summer's transfer window has been as dramatic as ever.

Lionel Messi was forced to stay at Barcelona after his attempts to leave the club for free were shot down, Chelsea have looked to make up for last summer's transfer ban by spending big on the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Ben Chilwell and Gareth Bale is set to complete a dramatic return to Tottenham after swapping them for Real Madrid back in 2013.

Liverpool are also closing in on the £27m signing of Thiago Alcantara as Jurgen Klopp's side look to retain the Premier League title.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have been involved in a drawn-out pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who is their top target.

Ed Woodward has struggled to turn Manchester United's financial power into success on the pitch

Dortmund want £108m for Sancho but United seem unwilling to pay the fee, leading multiple key figures at the Bundesliga side to publicly insist that Sancho is going nowhere.

They have completed the signing of highly-rated midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax, moving quickly to sign a player who had been heavily linked with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

However, more is needed if United are to continue to build on the progress made last season after Bruno Fernandes' arrival sparked an upturn in form which saw them finish third in the Premier League.

Marina Granovskaia has overseen Chelsea's summer splurge

Almost all of United's rivals have made significant steps forward, with Chelsea spending big, Arsenal backing Mikel Arteta and Liverpool looking to build on last season's triumph.

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia has been behind their business this summer, while the Gunners have given more power over transfers to technical director Edu after the departure of Raul Sanllehi.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have leant heavily on the expertise of sporting director Michael Edwards in the transfer market and he has been instrumental in the capture of players like Andy Robertson, Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker.

Liverpool Sporting Director Michael Edwards (L) has played a crucial role behind the scenes

United, on the other hand, still look to executive vice chairman Ed Woodward to conduct their dealings, despite his unquestionably poor track record.

The club have been crying out for a director of football, with the influence of individuals in similar roles at rival clubs clear to see.

The likes of Edwin van der Sar and Ralf Rangnick have all been linked with the role over the years but nothing has yet materialised.

Perhaps the most important work from the likes of Granovskaia, Edu and Edwards at their respective clubs has been offloading deadwood.

Mega-rich owner Roman Abramovich means Chelsea clearly have the necessary funds to spend big but they have also banked more than £66m in player sales this summer, with flop Alvaro Morata completing a permanent move to Atletico Madrid and Mario Pasalic joining Atalanta.

Edu and Mikel Arteta are now working closer together on Arsenal's transfer after the departure of Raul Sanllehi

Arsenal took the decision to cancel Henrikh Mkhitaryan's contract this summer to facilitate his move to Roma and get his wages off their books and they have also capitalised on backup goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez's impressive end to last season, selling him to Aston Villa for £20m.

Meanwhile, Edwards has an excellent record of securing top dollar for unwanted players at Liverpool, making a profit on the sale of players like Dominic Solanke, Jordon Ibe and Mamadou Sakho.

Those sales have given their clubs more freedom in the transfer market, while United have struggled to get rid of a lot of their own deadwood.

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Alexis Sanchez has left after a terrible stint at Old Trafford but the likes of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo remain on bumper wages with no real prospect of being sold this summer.

As a result, United do not have anywhere near the same amount of freedom in the market as their rivals and, after missing out on Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres to Manchester City, Thiago to Liverpool, Gabriel Magalhaes to Arsenal, Bale and Sergio Reguilon to Tottenham, it is clear something needs to be done to rectify the long-standing issues surrounding their transfer exploits.

Considering Woodward promised that United would be "highly competitive" in the market this summer and Solskjaer boasted that "there might be just a situation there where you can exploit", United's business has been another stark reminder that they are missing someone like Granovskaia, Edwards or Edu leading their transfer strategy.