Manchester United look set to be active in the January transfer window, with Louis van Gaal demanding his team produce performances to match their run of six straight victories. After a difficult start, and despite still missing several players through injury, United have surged into third place in the Premier League. Yet much of the recent wins have come despite the team failing to excel. And Van Gaal remains far from content.
“The results are very good but we can improve the performances as a team,” he said in his press conference ahead of the clash with Aston Villa on Saturday. “I don’t think that it was a great surprise that we won against Liverpool. The game against Hull was a good game, we dominated 90 minutes and I want to see more games like that. Now there are too few games that we are dominating for 90 minutes. That’s a process and we have to wait and see. I’m still looking for a game that is closer to the perfect game than we have given until now.”
There is much speculation that Van Gaal’s constant striving for improvement will see him add to his squad in the transfer market next month. While United spent heavily in the summer, they arguably failed to adequately address the two key deficiencies in the squad -- at center-back and in the defensive midfield role. According to several reports this week, that’s where the focus now lies.
Citing sources from Manchester United, ESPN reported that the Premier League giants feel their chances of landing long-time target Kevin Strootman in January have been boosted by Roma’s elimination from the Champions League last week. Strootman was a key player for Van Gaal when he was in charge of the Netherlands, before a serious knee injury ruled him out of the World Cup. He has only just returned to action, and a bid had been thought more likely to arrive from Old Trafford next summer.
Even since being ousted from the group stage of the Champions League, Roma have reiterated that he is not for sale, yet United are said to believe that a deal is possible, although it could cost in excess of £30 million.
Elsewhere, the Manchester Evening News reports that United’s spending could exceed the £30 million mark, with Strootman a leading target in addition to a center-back. The publication believes, as others do, that another player Van Gaal worked with in the Netherlands setup, Ron Vlaar, features prominently on the agenda. The physically imposing defender will be out of contract with Aston Villa in the summer, although his club are still believed to be after as much as £12 million to let him leave in January. That will surely be deemed excessive by United for a 29-year-old.
The asking price for another reported defensive target is far in excess of that figure. Diego Godin has a €36 million (£28.2 million) release clause in his contract, and Atletico Madrid have made it known they have no intention of negotiating his departure. Even were United to match that buyout clause, they would need to convince the Uruguay international to move to Old Trafford. And Godin has revealed that he intends to remain with the Spanish champions.
“At this point, I feel that I’m in the best time of my career and I still see my retirement very far,” he said reports Daily Mirror. “I would like to stay many years here [at Atletico Madrid]. But it is true that I also have an attraction from my country and at any point in the future I would like to return to Uruguay, to respond to the love they have showed me during this years. But just the time will say. It is difficult to know where I will be playing in as many years.”
As well as planning for January purchases, Manchester United will soon have to make a decision about the long-term future of one of their summer arrivals, Radamel Falcao. The Colombian striker joined in a lucrative loan deal from Monaco, but, disrupted by fitness issues, he has started just three matches, scoring only once. The 28-year-old has reiterated his desire to remain at Old Trafford, although admits he doesn’t know whether United intend to exercise their £43 million option to purchase his rights.
“From my point of view, yes, but obviously I have to analyze the situation, see if I play more and see what decision the board takes,” he said, reports The Guardian. “But from my point of view, I really want to stay.”