It was, by all accounts, an open goal for Joe Kinnear.
Heading into Wednesday's meeting with the advisers of Darren Bent, everything seemed to favour Kinnear and Newcastle's embattled transfer team.
For a start, Bent is desperate to play for Alan Pardew at St James' Park – to the extent he's prepared to countenance a pretty hefty pay cut to make the deal that bit easier for Newcastle.
Other factors were in play: the faint whiff of desperation at Villa Park to shift their highest earner off the wage bill, the diminished standing of United's biggest rivals Fulham and the fact that Bent – as an English forward with aspirations of playing for the national team – is exactly the sort of player Kinnear used to deal with in his days at Wimbledon.
In terms of the difficult deals done by United in recent years (the stealthy activation of Yohan Cabaye's contract clause or the smuggling of Papiss Cisse into Tyneside under everyone's noses), this was some way down. All it required was a credible sales pitch to keep them in the game.
Yet the exasperated vibes coming from Bent and his people by Thursday morning were that Kinnear had fluffed his lines, asking the striker to hold on until the end of the month while talking terms and a transfer fee that seemed to ludicrously under- value the player.
To put it in football terms, Kinnear had 'done a Ronnie Rosenthal' – blasting on to the bar from two yards out.
Now maybe there's a cunning plan here. Maybe Kinnear was using interest in Bent to smoke out Loic Remy, Bafetimbi Gomis or Mevlut Erdinc. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that with 31 days of the transfer window to go, we might all be applauding a Kinnear masterstroke when Newcastle's new striker signing (whoever that may be) hits his first goal to give them a shock win at Manchester City.
But right about now, patience is stretched even thinner than Kinnear's credibility as a guru of player recruitment. If those close to Bent are declaring themselves unimpressed, how are United going to handle a player who might not be totally sold on the idea of moving to St James' Park? Just like the sums quoted to Bent's people, something doesn't add up here.
The United wish-list is out in public: Bent, Remy and Gomis. All three want to come to Newcastle. All three are at clubs that need to sell for one reason or another. Yet activity is either stalled or, in the case of Bent, careering backwards down a dead end.
The world of football administration has become more complex than it should be, perhaps even a shade more Machiavellian.
I spoke to one football agent this week – a good, honest guy who has a couple of talented young players on his books – and he painted a picture of being totally fed up with the way people in the game try to pull one over each other. He seemed ready to wash his hands of the whole thing.
The financial constraints at United, where the order of the summer has been to tighten belts to the point where the club is strained to breaking point, make life that bit more difficult. They have to act smart, to work subtly and sell the club properly. They have to be political and exploit any opportunity.
The lack of action so far suggests Newcastle's new-look transfer team are struggling to work that way and, with four weeks left of this transfer window, that is a big worry. Dispatches from Wednesday's meeting worried me greatly and they must have ramped up the pressure on Kinnear significantly.
After all, these are exactly the kind of deals he should be doing.
To wake up on Sunday and read Kinnear talking about the Champions League was baffling. He's not supposed to be involved with the football side of things, so quite why he's setting the bar in terms of ambition I don't know. I'd love to put the question to him directly but he's not in the mood to talk to the local media at the moment.
That's fine. I'd rather be reporting on the thoughts of Newcastle's shiny new striker anyway. But I'm not holding my breath.