For months those in power at Manchester United have talked about this summer as one of huge importance for the club and one which would see significant overhaul of the squad. Following last summer’s transfer window, which caused significant embarrassment, lessons were supposed to have been learned and new manager Louis van Gaal was promised a squad that could return to the club to the top of the table. The decision to allow three of the club’s most experienced players -- Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand -- to leave appeared a sign of confidence that deals would be done. Instead, the bulk of Manchester United’s biggest squad rebuild in years has come down to the final two weeks of the transfer window.
The arrivals of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera were secured early but had only to be signed off by Van Gaal when he arrived. Despite regularly lamenting the unbalanced squad he inherited and it being abundantly clear he lacked the players for his 3-4-1-2 formation, it was only on Wednesday that another signing was forthcoming. It appears highly unlikely that Marcos Rojo was Van Gaal’s first choice, yet in their current predicament securing the Argentina international defender counts as a triumph.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has boasted that Manchester United are prepared to pay a world record transfer fee and that, despite the absence of Champions League action at Old Trafford this season, the club can still attract the best players around. The truth is United have never shopped at the top table and signed genuine world stars and look even less capable of doing so now. Under huge pressure to get names in, the fear is that United will now end up paying over the odds for players who at the start of the summer weren’t at the top of their wanted list. Rojo is thought to have been an alternative to Thomas Vermaelen, who instead joined Barcelona. Still, United were compelled to spend £16 million on Rojo and send Nani on loan to Sporting Lisbon while continuing to pay the winger’s wages at a cost of around £5 million.
Manchester United cannot afford to have Rojo be the final signing. An opening-day home defeat to Swansea City showed the major surgery still required to even make United strong contenders for the Champions League.
Here are four players they could feasibly sign before the deadline.
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
It is the saga that has dominated the summer. Manchester United have stated they have no interest but reports and logic suggest otherwise. United’s midfield has been undermanned for years and the Chilean has all the tools to single-handedly turn the team’s major weakness into a major strength. However, it could well be that, despite his undoubted quality, United have been wary of paying a club-record transfer fee for a player who is still recovering from a knee injury suffered late last season. In recent days, Juventus have sounded increasingly confident that Vidal will be staying.
Ángel di María (Real Madrid)
If Van Gaal is intent on persevering with his 3-4-1-2 formation then there would appear no natural place for Di María in the lineup. Still, he is undoubtedly a world-class operator and is available from Real Madrid at the right price. Currently that price, reportedly £50 million, appears too high for Manchester United. But, as the deadline nears, United’s determination for a landmark signing is likely to increase along with Madrid’s desire to recoup some money, meaning it is a deal that could yet happen.
Mehdi Benatia (Roma)
It is incredible that Manchester United have known that their two most experienced central defenders were leaving for months yet, even when Van Gaal declared his intention to field three center-backs, it has taken so long for a single replacement to be secured. Despite Rojo’s arrival, another center-back is needed to provide five established options for the three spots. Roma’s Benatia appears the best candidate currently available. The Morocco international had an outstanding first season at Roma to help them to second place in Serie A and he would be a commanding presence at the heart of United’s defense. Yet, with Chelsea and Bayern Munich believed to be in pursuit, his arrival appears unlikely.
Daley Blind (Ajax)
Having played under Van Gaal with some success for the Netherlands, Blind has predictably been linked heavily with a transfer to Old Trafford. The player has hinted he would welcome the move, while Van Gaal has expressed his liking for the tactical and technical astuteness of Dutch players. The signing of Rojo decreases the chances of Blind joining. Yet the fact that Blind can play as a center-back, left-back and wing-back and, in what is possibly his best position, defensive midfielder, means he could yet be pursued.