Is King Louis Finally About To Swoop?

The start of the summer augured well for Manchester United fans. They had a new manager with the sort of track record befitting a club of the Red Devils’ stature, proving his worth on FIFA’s greatest stage. What’s more, and in stark contrast to last season, they completed two big signings (Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw) in double-quick time. This was, or so it appeared, the start of a new era at Old Trafford: a clean break from David Moyes; a purging of the mediocre from United’s ranks; the beginnings of a radical re-building process.

Since then, it’s all gone a little quiet. Yes, they are unbeaten in pre-season and seem to have re-found that confidence and spirit which was noticeably absent under Moyes. But there’s a nagging doubt at the back of most supporters’ minds: will this squad really take us back to the pinnacle of the English game?   

For the majority, the answer is "no." Regardless of the fewer games they’ll have to play this season, United look two-to-three quality players short of being real title contenders, particularly given the system van Gaal wants to play. Take the team that faced Valencia at Old Trafford last night: with Jonny Evans, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia all injured, United’s back five included two 20 year olds – Reece James and Tyler Blackett – who have yet to play a competitive match for the first team.

To the chagrin of many, van Gaal promised to take a few weeks to assess his playing staff before making any further signings, and he’s been true to his word. But, having had his month of meditation, is the Manchester United transfer machine finally about to spark back into life? Below are five players who are, to use the appropriate transfer phraseology, “on United’s radar”.

Marcos Rojo (Porto, £16m)

This one has emerged from left field in the last 24 hours, with numerous papers reporting that United have made a bid of £16m for the Argentine defender (who’s currently refusing to train with Porto in an effort to force a deal through). A left back by trade, though capable of playing as part of a central three, Rojo would bring the sort of flexibility that van Gaal favours, providing back-up in two areas where United are currently light. Rojo had one torrid season in Russia before moving to Porto two years ago, but was a key player in Argentina’s World Cup run in Brazil. This is one transfer story that actually looks like it may come to fruition, but is van Gaal in danger of making one of those doomed World Cup transfers?  

Arturo Vidal (Juventus, £50m)

The summer saga we failed to predict. It seems that every other day the Italian press tell us Vidal has agreed personal terms with United, or that Juve are preparing for life without the Chilean, only for nothing to actually happen. The reported asking price continues to creep up, starting at a “lowly” £30m and now at the princely sum of £50m + Nani (or £50.1m). That’s a lot of eggs to put in one basket, especially one with a dodgy knee (if baskets had limbs, that is). Still, it’s a basket United desperately need, and few people remember the number of eggs if the basket does its job (shall we stop with the egg/basket metaphor now? Ok, good.)

Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina, £32m)

Depending upon which paper you read this morning, you were greeted either by “CUADRADO DEAL ON!” or “CUADRADO DEAL OFF!” That’s how clued-up the English press is on the likelihood of this particular transfer. The Colombian winger certainly fits the profile of player van Gaal is seeking to bring to United, as he looks to add width to a squad he’s described as “unbalanced.” With both Chelsea and Barcelona also credited with an interest, United would likely have to bid big to bring him to Old Trafford.

Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid, £50m)

With Real Madrid having spent the equivalent of Singapore’s GDP over the past two years accumulating a treasure trove of attacking talent, there were always going to be exits this summer. It appears that Di Maria will be one of them, with Carlo Ancelotti getting all coy when asked about the Argentine’s future after last night’s UEFA Super Cup, where he was an unused substitute. United have been strongly linked with Di Maria since van Gaal name-dropped the winger as the sort of quality player United currently lack, but PSG are regarded as the favourites to win the race for the Argentine’s signature (despite initially baulking at his €8m-a-year net wage demands).

Daley Blind (Ajax, £17m)

It was as obvious as neon socks in sandals that a Dutchman – any Dutchman – would be linked with Old Trafford this summer, but the apparent pursuit of Daley Blind makes a great deal of sense. Already a proven operator within van Gaal’s 3-5-2 system, Blind is a versatile player who, like Rojo, is capable of covering two positions in which United are under-resourced: left back and central midfield. Schooled in the Ajax ethos that van Gaal helped to develop, Blind to United just feels right (which means it definitely won’t happen).



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