Manchester United kept a welcome clean sheet on Saturday to record a third successive Premier League win, yet few doubt that manager Louis van Gaal is scouring all options available to strengthen his defense in the January transfer window. Since Van Gaal took the helm, United have been ravaged by injuries in all areas of their squad, but particularly in defense, where the options were already weakened by the summer departures of experienced duo Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. With Phil Jones, Rafael and Luke Shaw still out and Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia currently occupying the full-back berths, there continues to be much speculation that United will sign a defender next month, despite executive vice chairman Ed Woodward recently insisting that the club wouldn’t look for short-term fixes.
One reported target who certainly wouldn’t fit into that short-term category is World Cup winner Mats Hummels. The Daily Star is among the publications to suggest that United are now in a strong position to land the 25-year-old following Borussia Dortmund’s wretched start to the Bundesliga season that currently sees them bottom of the table. It’s a deal that still appears extremely difficult to pull off in January, however. Dortmund will be loathed to lose another big-name player, especially in midseason, while the club have also already secured progress to the last 16 of the Champions League.
Instead of Hummels, The Daily Telegraph reports that Manchester United are now weighing up a January transfer for Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godín. The Uruguay international was arguably the best defender in Spain last season, not only with his reliable, determined presence at the back but thanks to a string of important goals, including ones that won the Spanish title and gave Atletico the lead in the Champions League final. As a result, there appears little possibility of Atletico allowing him to leave for anything less than his €36 million (28.5 million) release clause.
Despite Godín being aged 28, The Telegraph states that United would be willing to pay the sizable fee. Whether Godín would be willing to leave Atletico and a place in the Champions League to join United in midseason remains to be seen.
A much cheaper, albeit lesser quality, alternative would be Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar. Like many publications, The Telegraph is also of the opinion that Vlaar is a target for his former Netherlands manager Van Gaal. The 29-year-old has yet to sign an extension to a contract that is set to expire at the end of the season and would surely relish the chance to link up once more with Van Gaal while joining a club of United’s stature. Given their precarious position in the Premier League, however, Villa may not be willing to take the money and lose their strongest defender in January, even if it means seeing him leave for nothing in the summer.
Manchester United look set to have their own contract dilemma upcoming over Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. The Mexico striker is currently on a season-long loan at Real Madrid, with his current deal at Old Trafford only running until the summer. It appears highly unlikely that Madrid will offer him a permanent deal, given that he has been on the pitch for just 322 minutes since joining the European champions. Hernández, too, has suggested that his future lies away from both Real Madrid and Manchester United, given that his priority is now securing regular first-team action.
“I am not sure what will happen in the summer yet -- but whatever happens I need guarantees,” he said, reports the Daily Mail. “I am 26 now -- in the summer I will be 27 -- I must be at a club where I am going to be playing regularly. Wherever I am playing next season, I will make sure I have those sort of assurances.”