Louis van Gaal’s repeated claims that Manchester United possess sufficient scoring options were given some credence on Wednesday when Wayne Rooney fired a hat-trick against Club Brugge to secure a place in the Champions League group phase. With Rooney going scoreless through the first four games of the season and the United team as a whole struggling to find the net, pressure had mounted on Van Gaal to make a major signing before the close of the transfer window.
Yet Van Gaal is adamant that he never doubted the ability of his captain. “Wayne has the best mentality that you can imagine,” he said after United completed a 7-1 aggregate win over Club Brugge, according to Manchester United’s official website. “Such players of that level shall always come back.”
Whether even a fully firing Rooney is sufficient to fulfill United’s lofty ambitions this season, though, will remain up for debate. Rooney’s understudy, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, slipped and missed a penalty as well as failing to take another late chance in Belgium, to prompt an unimpressed look from his manager on the sidelines. United are also thought to have pursued Spain forward Pedro before he instead swapped Barcelona for Chelsea last week.
And the suggestion remains that Manchester United will make one last attempt to lure a major attacking star to Old Trafford ahead of the close of the summer transfer window next Tuesday. According to ESPN, the focus of their attention will be Gareth Bale.
Having lost out to Real Madrid when he moved to Tottenham for a reported world record fee two summers ago, United have been linked with the Welsh forward for much of the past year. And they could be aided in their pursuit in the coming days by the fact that Real Madrid remain keen to conclude a transfer to bring long-time target David de Gea to the Bernabeu.
Still, particularly given that De Gea will be free to leave at the end of his contract next summer, it seems a distant prospect that Madrid will be willing to allow Bale to leave in order to get their man. While Bale had a disappointing season last term, neither he nor Real Madrid have shown any indication of wanting to part ways as yet. Indeed, Madrid have even handed him a more prominent role in the team’s lineup under new manager Rafa Benitez.
And United will surely be left disappointed, too, even if, as reports suggest they make an incredible 100 million euros (£73 million) bid for Thomas Müller. Van Gaal knows the versatile Germany forward well, having given him his first-team breakthrough during his time managing Bayern Munich. But, with Bayern having already sold one of their team’s most iconic players, Bastian Schweinsteiger, to Manchester United this summer, there is as good as no chance of them selling another. And, according to German tabloid Bild, Bayern plan to make sure of he’s stay by offering Müller a lucrative new contract.
The chances seem even more remote that Manchester United’s reported desire to bring Neymar to Old Trafford will come to fruition, at least any time soon. In fact, it appears increasingly likely that such talk had more to do with the fact that the Brazilian star was negotiating a new contract at Barcelona. After scoring 39 goals last season and with Barcelona currently banned from registering new players, there would certainly be little reason for him to depart.
According to the Daily Mail, Barcelona will attempt to tie Neymar, whose current contract runs until 2018, to a new five-year deal with a buyout clause of 250 million euros (£182 million). United have accepted that they have more chance of signing the 23-year-old next summer rather than this, but even that appears a long shot.
A More realistic target for Manchester United is floated by the Daily Express, which suggests that Van Gaal’s men could make a late move for West Brom striker Saido Berahino. Tottenham have been pursuing the 22-year-old strongly and have already had a £22 million bid rejected, while West Brom have also turned down a transfer request from the player. West Brom’s tough stance has prompted suggestions that Spurs could turn their back on a deal and potentially leave the door open for United.
While a player with undoubted potential, Berahino would not exactly be a signing to excite the United fans, and it would, at this stage, surely represent something of a desperation move by the club.