Manchester United’s first transfer window since the departure of both manager Sir Alex Ferguson and chief executive David Gill took another concerning turn on Thursday with Cesc Fabregas’s confirmation that he intends on staying at Barcelona. While there have been claims that a third bid for the former Arsenal captain will still be forthcoming, United’s always slim chances of completing the transfer now appear non-existent.

New boss David Moyes quickly identified strengthening his midfield as his priority this summer but has also missed out on a deal for Thiago Alcantara. With just over three weeks of the transfer window remaining, the situation is fast becoming critical. Here are four midfielders that Moyes could now turn his attention to as he looks to build a squad capable of giving him immediate success at Old Trafford.

Marouane Fellaini (Everton) It has long seemed logical that Moyes would target a reunion with the Belgian who served him so well at Goodison Park. However, the fact that no bid has yet been made, despite Fellaini having a clause that allowed him to leave for around £23 million until July 31, raises questions about how much of a priority his signing is seen as being. Clearly, Fellaini is also different in style to Fabregas, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. United have long been crying out for a more physical and dynamic presence in their midfield and Fellaini would certainly provide those attributes. Yet, questions over whether the 25-year-old has the technical ability to flourish at a truly top club will have to be answered if Moyes makes the call to his former employers.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid) The long-time United target is strongly reported to be the club’s leading alternative to Fabregas. And it’s easy to see why. While not possessing the same goal-scoring threat, Modric shares an ability with Fabregas to open up defenses moving into advanced areas. His position at Real Madrid also looks under threat following the summer signings of Asier Illarramendi and Isco. Still, it is difficult to see quite how the Croatian playmaker would fit at Old Trafford. A deep-lying midfield two of Modric and Michael Carrick would be in perilous danger of being overrun against better teams, while Shinji Kagawa warrants being given a full season playing in his favored advanced central midfield role.

Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United) Although his most recent season was interrupted by injury, the France international has shown himself to be a strong Premier League performer since making the move from Lille to the North East in 2011. An accomplished passer with an eye for goal from free-kicks, Cabaye has been regularly linked with United in the past year and, with Newcastle’s recent problems, could see this as his time to join a bigger club. The 27-year-old has yet to prove his qualities at the highest level, though, and he certainly wouldn’t represent the statement signing Moyes and United desire.

Claudio Marchisio (Juventus) The Italy international is another midfielder regularly stated to be on Manchester United’s radar in recent times. But the prospect of prying Marchisio away from the Italian champions remains unlikely. There appeared a glimmer of hope earlier in the summer as the all-round midfielder sought talks with Juventus about his future after returning from the Confederations Cup. The situation now appears resolved, although United’s increasingly desperate quest may yet see them make one final play for the 27-year-old.  

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