Manchester United’s goalkeeping situation continues to be the subject of much conjecture following the arrival of Victor Valdes to kick off the club’s activity in the transfer window. The former Barcelona stopper, who had been training with the club since October in an effort to regain fitness after suffering a serious knee injury last March, agreed an 18-month contract earlier this week, raising immediate questions about the future of United’s current No. 1, David de Gea.
Speaking in front of the media for the first time since the arrival of the 32-year-old, who he coached during his time in charge at the Camp Nou, Van Gaal stated that Valdes will be challenging De Gea starting role, but faces a tough task.
“Nobody is happy to be number two and he has to have an ambition to beat David de Gea, but it shall be very hard for him,” he said. “My ambition is to put the best players who can collaborate with each other to form the best team in the world.”
De Gea has entered the final 18 months of his contract and has continued to be linked with a transfer back to Spain with Real Madrid. It was an issue that Van Gaal again refused to be drawn on.
“I cannot discuss that with you. I discuss that with David and I discuss that with Victor.”
There have been conflicting reports about De Gea’s future on Friday. The Daily Mail was among the publications in England reporting that the 24-year-old is close to agreeing a new contract to stay at Manchester United beyond the summer of 2016. But Madrid-based sports daily AS has stated that there has been contact between Real Madrid and De Gea’s representatives in recent weeks, with the player ready to depart Old Trafford and return to the city of his birth in the summer in order to replace Iker Casillas.
More immediately, Van Gaal is thought to be looking at ways to add to his squad in the January transfer window. Not that the veteran Dutch coach is giving anything away about his intentions.
“No, in this transfer window I don’t discuss with you,” he responded to a question about his plans. “You can ask it another way but I’m always saying the same answer.”
According to the Daily Mirror, Manchester United are ready to make a £35 million bid for Borussia Dortmund center-back Mats Hummels. The German World Cup winner has been repeatedly cited as a leading target to bolster United’s patchy options in the center of defense. Yet Hummels has always insisted that he is fully committed to Dortmund, and his father and agent, Hermann Hummels, has reiterated that stance.
"There is nothing to it,” he told Sky News in Germany.
It appears another rumored Manchester United defensive target can also be ruled out from joining the club in January. Ron Vlaar, a member of Van Gaal’s Netherlands World Cup squad, will be out of contract in the summer and there have been strong reports that United would look to arrange a cut-price transfer this month. But the 29-year-old has now undergone surgery on a knee injury that will rule him out for six weeks, and, according to The Guardian, end the chances of him moving in this transfer window.
Thus it could be that Van Gaal is forced to wait until the summer to get their ideal man at the back. ESPN has reported that their sources indicate Manchester United, and Chelsea, will make an approach for Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane once the season comes to a close. United pursued the 21-year-old before he left Lens for Real Madrid in 2011 and have been repeatedly been linked with a move since. The France international has found himself behind Sergio Ramos and Pepe in the pecking order this season but enjoyed a strong run in the team during the final season at the Bernabeu of now Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho.