In the end, there was an inevitability about it all.
After a summer of insisting Real Madrid wouldn’t get their man, Manchester United finally relented. And Real Madrid got their man. David De Gea has got his move to the Bernabeu.
United – Ed Woodward and Louis van Gaal – should be applauded for trying their best to stand up to a club who have become masters at signing big players.
But they were always fighting a losing battle.
And any leverage they had ended the minute Van Gaal revealed before the first game of the season that De Gea wouldn’t be selected until after the transfer deadline.
Up until that moment, it felt like United had the situation under control.
Yes, De Gea wanted to go and no, he was never going to sign a new contract. But he had gone on the pre-season tour of the United States and started the games against Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
A number of United’s fringe players have had to settle for a view from the stands
It looked like he would start against Tottenham, too, until Van Gaal decided he wasn’t in the right frame of mind.
It was at that moment De Gea’s United career came to an end.
Van Gaal insisted after the win over Spurs there was still a chance De Gea would play again after the transfer window closed.
But in reality, that was never an option. There were too many unanswered questions.
United’s posturing over De Gea has led to Sergio Romero keeping goal
If he was brought back into the team would he then have to be dropped again when the transfer window reopened in January?
What would happen if he signed a pre-contract agreement with Real Madrid?
In the end, it looks messy. Something that could have been resolved a month ago has been allowed to drag on until the final hours of the window.
It is, though, still the right decision.
It looks like United have lost out to Madrid again. In truth, they have lost out to player power. And there are very few clubs, not even Real Madrid, who can stand up to that.
It may have been possible to squeeze one more season out of De Gea. But that looked unlikely as soon as he was dropped and Van Gaal claimed publicly he didn’t want to play.
De Gea is already one of the best goalkeepers in the world. And whoever starts against Liverpool at Old Trafford on September 12 – whether it be Sergio Romero or Keylor Navas – United will have downgraded.
But there was little to be gained from keeping an unhappy player sat in the stands.
Woodward and Van Gaal can at least console themselves with the fact they’ve got £30m for a player who would have cost nothing in 12 months.
That, and the knowledge that, in the end, the decision to ship out a player who didn’t want to be there is the right one.