Manchester United manager Lois van Gaal has revealed that his priority in this summer’s transfer market will be to sign a midfielder who can balance out the attacking players at his disposal. United picked up another positive result on Monday, with a victory at Preston North End to set up and FA Cup quarterfinal with Arsenal, but the side’s performances have been less encouraging. And, speaking ahead of the fifth round clash at the League One side, Van Gaal made it clear where he thinks the main weakness in his squad lies.
“Yes, of course,” he said in response to being asked whether signing a midfielder will be a priority this summer. “I’m looking for balance and I need balance in midfield. In the last games I played with Adnan Januzaj and Angel di Maria in the midfield positions. When you have these creative players, also [Radamel] Falco and [Robin] van Persie are creative, you have four creative players. Then you have to look for balance in your team.”
Speculation has already started over who tops Van Gaal’s wanted list. The Telegraph reports that it continues to be two names that have been repeatedly linked with moves to Old Trafford in recent months, Kevin Strootman and Paul Pogba. Strootman was a Van Gaal favorite when the United coach was in charge of the Netherlands and may already have joined him at United had it not been for a serious knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for much of last year. The Roma man was forced to have more surgery on his knee last month, ruling him out for the rest of the season and surely putting any transfer to Manchester United this summer in doubt.
Almost ever since Pogba walked out on United to join Juventus in 2012, he has been linked with a return. The 21-year-old is closing in on a third successive Serie A title with Juventus and is enjoying a standout season. Pogba’s agent has also suggested that the gifted midfielder could be on his way out of the Turin club in the near future, providing one of his numerous suitors comes up with a massive bid. Whether Manchester United are prepared to put in an offer high enough to appease Juventus and fight off the competition for his signature remains to be seen.
Pogba is not the only big-name player to be linked with a return to Manchester United in recent days. Following what, by his incredibly high standards, has been a disappointing run of form, as well as being photographed partying hours after Real Madrid’s 4-0 loss to Atletico Madrid earlier this month, there have been suggestions that Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Real Madrid is now in question. And Spanish publication El Confidencial has reported that Madrid president Florentino Perez has decided to cash in on the 30-year-old, if a massive offer arrives. Manchester United are unsurprisingly expected to be at the top of the queue for his signature, having previously shown an interest in bringing him back to Old Trafford. Yet, given Ronaldo’s incredible form over the past two years and that he displays no signs of slowing down, it remains difficult to imagine him departing the current European champions.
A man perhaps more likely to make the move from Madrid to Manchester is Raphael Varane. The French defender, 21, was pursued strongly by United before he joined Real Madrid in 2011 and has gone onto earn a reputation as one of the world’s outstanding young center-backs. However, when both are fit, he has continued to find himself behind Pepe and Sergio Ramos in the pecking order under Carlo Ancelotti. Despite Varane currently enjoying a run in the team, he has, according to the Daily Mirror, become frustrated by his role. Both Manchester United and Chelsea are said to be interested, although it’s reported that it will cost £25 million to prize Varane away from the Bernabeu.