The start of the January transfer window is now just two weeks away, with Manchester United likely to be among several of the Premier League’s big guns looking to bolster their squad for the second half of the season. Although United are on a run of six straight victories and manager Louis van Gaal recently described talk of the funds he might have at his disposal as “disgusting,” he is not a man to rest on his laurels.
It could be that constant demand for improvement that has led Van Gaal to pursue the signing of former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. The 32-year-old, out of contract since leaving the Camp Nou in the summer, has been training with United since October in an effort to return to fitness after a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered in March. In recent days the Daily Mail has reported that Valdes has stepped up his training with the United squad, with the possibility that a behind-closed-doors friendly could be arranged in order for him to prove his fitness and earn a contract with the club. It is thought that Van Gaal wants Valdes in the squad to keep pressure on first-choice stopper David de Gea.
De Gea could hardly be in better form right now and has been a key factor in Manchester United’s current winning run. He particularly excelled with a string of fine saves to help United to a 3-0 win over rivals Liverpool on Sunday to strengthen their grasp on third place in the Premier League. It may not be just providing competition and cover for De Gea that has prompted the interest in Valdes, however. The former Atletico Madrid man is about to enter the final 18 months of his contract and has been regularly linked with a transfer to Real Madrid.
A report from the BBC on Tuesday has quotes from unnamed senior sources at Manchester United stating that they are “relaxed” about the situation. Were there to be no progress before the end of the season, however, the concerns over keeping a player who has gone from a liability when he signed three years ago to one of the world’s best goalkeepers would grow significantly.
There have also been rumors that Manchester United may be in the market for one of Valdes’s former teammates at Barcelona, Martin Montoya. A product of the Catalan club’s famed academy, the 23-year-old has made regular appearances in the past two seasons as cover for Dani Alves. But this campaign that place has been taken by Douglas and Montoya has been restricted to just a single outing. According to Catalonia-based publication Sport, Montoya could make his final appearance for Barcelona on Tuesday before leaving in January. United could do with an extra right-back, with their only natural in that position, Rafael, having been regularly troubled by injury. Whether Montoya has the quality on the ball for a Van Gaal team, though, is a question mark.
Given the problems that have been endured this season, it does seem likely that if Manchester United do enter the transfer market next month it will be to strengthen their options defensively. Still, Van Gaal may also have an eye on a midfielder, and especially one he knows well, Kevin Strootman. Long linked with a move to Old Trafford, the man who excelled for Van Gaal when he was in charge of the Netherlands has recently returned from a serious knee injury. His Italian club, Roma, though, continue to insist they have no intention of letting him go.
“Our president [James Pallotta] has already spoken about this and he gets angry with the rumors that link him [Strootman] to Manchester United,” general director Mauro Baldissoni told Italian radio station Radio Anch'Io Lo Sport, reports Sky Sports. “Our policy is that of investing in players that have quality but have room for improvement. “Kevin is a young player with experience, and we want to build our future with players like him.”
Given Roma’s resistance and Strootman’s current fitness, a transfer next summer, rather than in January, appears more likely. That is also a window when it has been rumored that United will pursue former target Gareth Bale. United tried to sign the Welsh forward before he joined Real Madrid in a record transfer in 2013, and several sources have claimed that they will now try to prize him away from the Bernabeu. That has always looked unlikely to happen in the near future, and Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Graham Hunter has poured further cold water on the possible deal. Hunter believes only Bale asking to leave could prompt a transfer, and there is nothing to suggest that scenario is on the cards.