An extraordinary claim emerged from the Sun on Wednesday as they reported that Manchester United made a £38 million bid for Brazilian star Neymar on the final day of the transfer window. While the Santos forward has long-been linked with a move to La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, there had not previously been any suggestion of serious interest emanating from Old Trafford.
United had pushed hard to sign fellow Brazilian youngster Lucas Moura earlier in the summer, before being blown out of the water by a €45 million offer from Paris Saint-Germain. Neymar, though, is rated significantly higher than Lucas in his homeland, having already established himself as a key performer for the national side. Signing the 20-year-old would have represented a significant coup for Manchester United.
The story was quickly quashed by Santos football director Felipe Faro, however.
"I have no idea where that came from, but it's not true," he told Globo Esporte.
Neymar's father also denied that the player would be leaving Brazil in the immediate future.
"Neymar was sold two years ago but we are still here," he remarked.
Neymar is widely believed to want to remain at Santos until after the 2014 World Cup, which is set to take place in Brazil.
The signing of Neymar would have been extraordinary for United, given the concern by many observers over the finances at Old Trafford under the ownership of the Glazer family. Coming on the back of a £24 million deal for Robin van Persie, it would have made a major statement.
According to the Sun, United's alleged interest in Neymar casts further doubt on the future of Wayne Rooney. The forward is currently out injured, but was left on the substitutes' bench for the recent clash with Fulham amid speculation over his lack of fitness. The Sun reports that United may well return with another offer for Neymar in January.
A deal for Neymar could also have been partly funded by offloading Nani. The Portuguese winger has yet to sign a new deal at Old Trafford and has again been linked with a move to Zenit St Petersburg by TalkSport. Manager Luciano Spalletti has previously spoken of his desire to bring Nani to Zenit and the report claims that they could launch a £25 million bid before the Russian transfer window closes on Thursday.
Other sources have a different take on events, however. Goal.com reports that a deal for Nani is highly unlikely following Zenit's signing of Hulk and Axel Witsel for a combined €80 million (£63.5m).
In other news, United have officially announced the signing of Chilean forward Angelo Henriquez. The 18-year-old arrives from Universidad de Chile after being on manager Sir Alex Ferguson's radar for some time.
"We scouted him when he was 14 years old and just monitored him," Ferguson said, according to the Manchester United website. "When he turned 18, we knew we could take him; it's the first time we can sign them in this country, at 18, and so we were very fortunate the Chile Under-20s were over here.
"We have a proud record of developing young talent and Angelo fits the profile of a United player - skilful, attacking and someone who plays the game with real flair," Ferguson added.
Henriquez said that he was delighted to be joining United.
"I am thrilled to be joining the biggest club in the world. Manchester United is a great team and has a great manager.
"To be able to be part of that is a huge honor and I can't wait to get started. I hope I can be part of many successful years with United."
Henriquez will wear the No.21 shirt for Manchester United this season, though is initially expected to be used at in the reserves and Under-21 side.