The Premier League champions made all the right noises at the start of the close season with bids for Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas and media reports of a desire to recapture Cristiano Ronaldo signalling real ambition to net a big name. (Agencies)
Yet as the clock ticked down on Monday's transfer deadline day, United were minutes away from coming away with only a promising Uruguayan youngster as attempts to sign Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera and Real Madrid's Fabio Coentrao failed.
A close season spent fighting off Chelsea's advances for disgruntled England striker Wayne Rooney was also an unnecessary distraction as each of the club's transfer targets appeared to join other clubs or opt to stay put.
In the end, they hurried through a 27.5 million pound (USD 42.80 million) deal for Everton's Fellaini, who is undoubtedly talented but does not have the same pedigree as their failed targets or Arsenal's last-minute buy Mesut Ozil.
United manager David Moyes had maintained throughout that he would not be worried if his club did not bring in any new faces as he was happy with his squad and yet the final-day chase of a number of players had a frantic air about it.
They said their pursuit of Herrera ended because they felt his buyout clause was too high while the word coming from Spain was altogether more alarming with media reports of impostors posing as United representatives trying to seal a deal.
A spokesman for the Spanish professional league (LFP) said three lawyers had gone to their offices in Madrid on Monday purporting to be representing United and after some discussions left without making the buyout clause payment.
A United spokesman said no one from the club had gone to the offices. The English champions were also linked during the day with a late move for Real Madrid left back Coentrao but in the end their business was conducted much closer to home.
The fact Fellaini was coming from United manager David Moyes' former club Everton would suggest a deal could have been done much earlier, had he been their top choice signing, as the Scot would have known the Belgian's contract inside out.
The Premier League champions made all the right noises at the start of the close season with bids for Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas and media reports of a desire to recapture Cristiano Ronaldo signalling real ambition to net a big name.