While Chelsea were leisurely strolling through the stalls of the transfer market, evaluating the Willians and Andre Schurrles of the world and snapping up the likes of Mark Schwarzer and Samuel Eto'o for cheap when said bargains presented themselves, Manchester United were in a state of utter discombobulation. It took the defending champions until the very last minute to reinforce their squad after months of false starts, and even then they ended up paying through the nose for Marouane Fellaini, who ended up selling for significantly more than he would have had he moved in July rather than September.
Normally, one might think that United's mishaps in the transfer window had nothing to do with Chelsea, but, as Daniel Taylor notes in the Guardian (buried in an article ostensibly about the really strange failed attempt Ander Herrera), the Blues managed to disrupt their northerly rivals' summer in a major way:
Rooney was never going to be allowed to join Chelsea, no matter what the offer. Behind the scenes at Old Trafford, there is frustration that this has largely been overlooked when it has taken up so much time and effort and, in their opinion, could be the difference between United winning the title or not.
Rooney's determination to force a transfer, with a proactive agent in Paul Stretford, and Chelsea doing everything they could to push it has been such a major issue at Old Trafford it is estimated to have taken up more than half the time that United's top-level officials have devoted to working on player arrivals and departures. United were determined to make a show of force and efforts are continuing behind the scenes to convince Rooney that he can, once again, be happy at Old Trafford. It is an ongoing process and there is an acceptance it will not be easy. However, it is being seen as a victory of sorts that they refused to cave in, as a point of principle, when the alternative was potentially to see him scoring 20 goals a season at Chelsea for the next few years.
Annoying United was plainly one of the major goals of Chelsea's repeated, public bids for Wayne Rooney. And United, leaderless in a post-Sir-Alex-Ferguson world, simply didn't know what to do about it -- the clumsy riposte that named 'Juan Mata or David Luiz' in the deal was hilarious; David Moyes' press conferences addressing Rooney were cringe-inducing.
I'm positive that Jose Mourinho would have been happy to bring Rooney in, but I'm equally positive that Chelsea knew that United wouldn't relent but kept up the chase anyway, making sure an unsettled player knew that his own club were the ones standing in the way of the move he wanted to make and causing them internal problems. If the figure Taylor quotes above -- more than half of the man-hours allocated to United's transfer operations went to addressing the Rooney situation -- the Blues' pursuit of Rooney played a serious role into changing their summer from one of promise to one of farce.
Manchester United needed to add significantly to their squad this summer. That they didn't manage it could hurt them badly this season -- perhaps even more badly than if they'd sold us Rooney. Chelsea saw them in a delicate situation, and exploited it mercilessly, tying up their executives' time and distracting a theoretically key player. And then bought a year of Samuel Eto'o for £7 million.
I hope someone at the club is rubbing their hands together and cackling maniacally right now. They've earned it.