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Manchester United’s move for Ander Herrera descends into chaos (Updated)

Sep 2, 2013, 6:26 PM EDT

Herrera in action for Bilbao, left, has had a promising start to his United career. Getty Images

At one point, we characterized the Ander Herrera-to-Manchester United story as “stronger” than the Marouane Fellaini link. That point was two-and-a-half hours ago. Since, the potential move of the Athletic Bilbao midfielder to Old Trafford has descended into chaos, rumor, and ultimately for United, failure.

Here’s what’s generally been reported, after hours of speculation as to what exactly went wrong: Manchester United were all set to hit Herrera’s buyout (€36 million; $47.5 million), but Spanish taxes pushed that up to €42 million. Apparently, this is a detail that United only realized today, when they actually went to trigger the player’s release. Unable to negotiate a lower fee with Athletic (whose previous reticence to settle for anything below the buyout should have foreshadowed their recalcitrant attitude), United walked away from the deal.

The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, on Twitter:

So let me break tone for a moment and try to get this straight: Arsenal is the team making huge, last-minute swoops for world-class talent? And Manchester United’s  the one getting tripped up by technicalities and a last-minute unwillingness to get a deal done? 2013, you’re blowing my mind.

Equally mind-blowing was some of the speculation flying around once the Herrera deal fell apart, little of which has been validated to this point (so proceed from here are your own risk). United’s representatives were said to be in Spain to pay the buyout only to leave the LFP’s offices having run into an administrative issue. Presumably, that was the tax. Later, speculation surfaced claiming the United representatives were not people from the club at all. Moments afterward, Spanish journalist Guillem Balague reported the deal was off. In a final round of fancy, some claimed the United officials were real, yet they were negotiating with fake Athletic representatives, possibly a telephone-esque distorting for another rumor.

UPDATE: According to Taylor, the final piece of speculation is likely (bizarrely) true:

“I think we’re going to hear a lot more about this in the coming days. The details are a bit sketchy but I’ve just had it confirmed from Old Trafford that the people who were in Spain, apparently negotiating on their behalf for Ander Herrera, were not sent there by the club and can accurately be described as ‘impostors’.”

World soccer, ladies and gentlemen.

Regardless, Ander Herrera is not joining Manchester United, and as of the end of the transfer window (roughly 20 minutes ago), neither had Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, though deals could still be in process at the FA’s office. Still, it’s looking more and more like fears harbored over the last two weeks by United fans — fears their club wouldn’t spend at all — may be realized. Unless you consider Guillermo Varela as “spending.”

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