Manchester United are starting to find their feet after a summer of upheaval in the transfer market, but speculation continues that there will be further spending in January. United produced their most complete performance of the season in claiming a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday, although it leaves them down in eighth in the Premier League table.
The performance of Marouane Fellaini against the table-toppers was particularly encouraging in offering some of the physicality that United’s midfield has been missing. Arturo Vidal was strongly sought over the summer to bring some of that added bite, as well as plenty of energy and quality on the ball. Ultimately United’s attempts to prize him away from Juventus were frustrated and it appears that rumored ambitions to rekindle their interest in January will end similarly. Reports now suggest that Vidal is set to sign a new contract with the Italian champions. That news comes despite the 27-year-old having just put pen to paper on a deal last December and talk that his relationship with the club had deteriorated following an unsanctioned night out ahead of a crucial Serie A contest. Vidal, though, recently took to social media to deny those claims.
Perhaps the position Louis van Gaal is most likely to strengthen in the January transfer window is at center-back. Manchester United have been plagued by injuries in that area of their squad, with youngsters like Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair having to be called upon to deputize. Only Marcos Rojo arrived to bolster the center of defense in the summer, although he is arguably better-suited to playing at left-back.
His Argentina colleague Ezequiel Garay has been linked with a move to Old Trafford for more than two years, but appeared to finally put an end to speculation when he left Benfica to join Zenit St Petersburg in the summer. Instead, the Daily Mirror has reported that Van Gaal deployed two scouts to watch the 28-year-old in action against Bayer Leverkusen last week. So soon after moving to the Russian giants, it would be a major surprise to see a deal come off in January.
An even more unlikely defensive target has emerged in the form of Ashley Cole. According to the Daily Express, United could pounce after speculation that Roma are keen to cut-short the former England international’s time in the Italian capital in January. Cole joined Roma on a free transfer from Chelsea in the summer, but had a night to forget in a 7-1 humiliation against Bayern Munich, when he was taken off at halftime. Yet, while Cole may be on his way out of Roma sooner than anyone imagined, Major League Soccer appears a much likelier destination than Old Trafford, where Luke Shaw and Rojo should provide ample cover.
Even more outlandish speculation comes from the Daily Star, which cites unnamed sources in Spain, to report that Manchester United are lining up a move for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale. It is only 14 months since Madrid made the Welsh winger the most expensive player in history to bring him to the Bernabeu, despite interest at the time from United. Although he has faced some criticism for his early-season performances and Isco has excelled while Bale has been out of the team recently with injury, manager Carlo Ancelotti only this week insisted that the former Tottenham man remains a key player.