Manchester United return to Premier League action on Saturday, when they can take another step toward Champions League qualification with a victory over Aston Villa. But it appears manager Louis van Gaal spent at least part of the past week’s international break working on plans to further improve his squad in this summer’s transfer window.
Already much speculation has surrounded United’s potential targets in what is set to be another eventful close season at Old Trafford. And reports suggest that the club are now honing in on at least one leading talent. According to the Manchester Evening News, Van Gaal and some members of his backroom team took in the Netherlands’ victory over Spain in Amsterdam on Tuesday, with winger Memphis Depay the focus of their attention.
Van Gaal should need little further information on Depay having included him in his Dutch squad for the 2014 World Cup, and regularly used him to good effect off the substitute’s bench. The 21-year-old has scored an impressive 23 goals in all competitions for PSV Eindhoven this season from his position coming off the left flank. And he is unlikely to have done anything to deter United of his qualities, having put in a thrilling display against Spain, in which he laid on the Netherlands’ second goal for Davy Klaassen. PSV will have also provided United encouragement, with their manager Phillip Cocu revealing recently that he expected his young starlet to leave at the end of the season.
Van Gaal’s interest in members of his former Dutch squad may not end there, however. Nigel de Jong was linked with a move from AC Milan last summer, and has still yet to agree an extension to his contract, which is set to expire in June. Italian publication Tuttosport reports that De Jong has decided for a new challenge on the back of Milan’s continued struggles, with the chance to reunite with Van Gaal at Manchester United currently his preferred choice.
The 30-year-old spent three seasons with United’s local rivals Manchester City before moving to Milan in 2012. While he wouldn’t be the most eye-catching of signings, his solidity in midfield could prove a useful short-term option for United.
It seems the side currently fourth in the Premier League may still have some work to do, though, to convince a player long seen as a leading transfer target to move to Old Trafford. Mats Hummels has been feverishly linked with a transfer to Manchester United since last summer, but has shown little indication of his commitment to Borussia Dortmund waning, despite his club’s poor season. That changed when Dortmund chief-executive Hans-Joachim Watzke revealed that the German World Cup winner had told the club he was considering his future.
Claims then emerged that Hummels had previously promised former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson that if he ever left Germany it would be to join the Red Devils. Hummels, though, has poured scorn on that suggestion.
“Just to be clear: This alleged ‘promise’ is simply an invention … and that is putting it nicely,” he said on Twitter.
Another reportedly long-standing Manchester United transfer target has also been discussing speculation of a move this week. Fabio Coentrao was close to a loan deal to Old Trafford on the final day of the 2013 summer window, before a late hitch prevented then United manager David Moyes getting his man. But, with the Portugal international still failing to usurp Marcelo as Madrid’s regular left-back, Spanish sports daily AS has reported that United have revived their interest. And Coentrao has suggested he would welcome a move.
“I already showed that interest in playing there [at Manchester United],” he told Portuguese publication O Jogo, as reported by Sky Sports. “It's one of the best clubs in the world, a club that I admire a lot. It would be an honor to play there.”
Any move for Coentrao would be a major sign of a lack of faith in Luke Shaw. The 19-year-old was signed from Southampton last summer for a fee of £30 million, but has struggled to show his undoubted potential in a debut season where he has battled several injuries.