A straw poll of Manchester United fans may not return the name of Leighton Baines as David Moyes's ideal first major signing. Football – and especially the transfer market – are no one's utopia, though. So the reports the left-back may join the Evertonians who have already motored over the M62 to United is a sign of how the summer continues to frustrate Moyes and Ed Woodward, the club's inexperienced vice-president.
As the man charged with following Sir Alex Ferguson's 26-year tenure of success, Moyes was always conscious this would be his most difficult window. The pursuits of Thiago Alcântara and Cesc Fábregas proved that. They ended with neither midfielder being added to the area of his squad the Scot wants and needs to strengthen most. Marouane Fellaini, Baines's team-mate, is the next target he hopes will arrive to give Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley much-needed competition.
The Baines acquisition is being characterised by a sizable section of United fans as indifferent, at best. That is, they may recognise a fine left-back who could force out Ashley Cole as the England first choice, but with Patrice Evra's early-season form continuing his impressive last campaign, a kind of bemusement greets the potential arrival of Baines.
The acknowledgement that Evra is now 32 (though not 33 until mid-May) and has entered the autumn years of a stellar career, is usually followed by Baines's own age being pointed to – 29 in December – and the key question of whether another left-back is what is required, as Moyes's squad stands.
He currently has two understudies to Evra. At 24 and with a first year at Old Trafford behind him, Alexander Büttner has garnered experience but remains raw. The Dutchman could be allowed to go on loan – maybe to Besiktas – if Baines arrives. Fábio da Silva is a year younger but can point to starting the 2011 European Cup final against Barcelona (at right-back) and last season's loan and doomed battle with relegation at Queens Park Rangers as the invaluable staging posts in his own development.
Ferguson viewed the Brazilian's stay at QPR that way. "I think a year out at a good level playing every week will make Fábio a real top player for us," he said of the player, who is determined to dislodge Evra this term, firmly believing he can.
As reported by the Guardian last week, one hope for Moyes is that Baines may force the issue by demanding a transfer after the joint bid of £28m for him and Fellaini was angrily rejected by Everton. Some reports now suggest Baines has done so, although the Merseyside club deny this.
For Moyes, a long summer continues. The latest bid priced his former player at £12m. If Baines is to arrive Moyes may have to go higher. Of the market, the manager says: "I think there is value there, but we have only targeted certain players so we don't have a big list because there are only certain quality players that we want to bring to the club."
As an exit strategy, informing Everton five days before the window closes that he wants to leave for United seems to be cutting it fine from Baines. The move could still happen, though. If so, how it is greeted will be a comment more on who else Moyes has – or has not – managed to sign, rather than on Baines himself.