Despite being widely expected to be one of the more active clubs in the January transfer window, Manchester United remain without a signing heading into its final week. With a defense that has struggled in Louis van Gaal’s first campaign in charge, it was at the back where the veteran Dutch coach looked most likely to add to a squad that is currently clinging on the vital final Champions League place in the Premier League table. Yet, the man believed to be United’s top target appears no closer to a transfer to Old Trafford.
Mats Hummels has been repeatedly cited as the focus of Manchester United’s attention, but, despite Borussia Dortmund struggling in the Bundesliga relegation zone, he has consistently insisted he has no desire for a move. And the German center-back appears to be showing his frustration with the constant questioning.
"Are you looking for a headline?” he said in response to a question from German tabloid Bild, according to the Daily Mirror. “No, I will keep it the way I've been doing it for seven years. I'll let everything come to me and just look forward only to the start against Leverkusen and the second half of the season.”
On the back of Rafael’s continued struggles with injury and form, a right-back also appears to be one of Van Gaal’s priorities. Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne has been reported as the man top of United’s wanted list, but, again, prizing him away in January appears a tough task. His longer-term future is in considerably more doubt, however. The England international’s current contract expires in 18 months time and he had revealed that he does not yet know whether he will put pen to paper on a new deal.
“We will wait until April,” he said, reports Sky Sports. “I'm still negotiating my contract with my agent and the club.”
Certainly there is little prospect of Manchester United bringing Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford in January. Yet the groundwork increasingly looks like being laid for a tug of war for the Juventus midfielder’s services in the summer. Pogba’s agent has hinted that he might not be with the Italian champions for too much longer, while Juventus have again suggested that they would be powerless to stop him going if a massive transfer offer arrives.
“Unfortunately, everything in life has a price,” manager Massimiliano Allegri said after Pogba put in another starring performance on Sunday. “I don’t think it is a problem we need to consider right now. It is difficult to replace world class players, but it can be done, as football goes on.”
It could be another summer of significant upheaval at Manchester United, with the futures of several players currently at Old Trafford also in doubt. Prominent among them is Robin van Persie. The former Arsenal striker has struggled to hit the heights of his debut season at United and he admits that, with less than 18 months remaining on his current deal, he doesn’t know whether he will be offered a new contract.
“It is not up to me,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “For the moment I am staying here for 18 months. That is it really. I can't look into the future. I don't know what is going to happen after that. We shall have to wait and see."
The end at Old Trafford has almost certainly now arrived for another of Manchester United’s most experienced players. It has been widely reported that Darren Fletcher, whose contract is due to expire at the end of the season, has been told that he can leave on a free transfer this month. The 30-year-old, who came up through the youth ranks at United, has returned to action after a long absence with illness but has found his first-team opportunities limited under Van Gaal. He is expected to join West Ham United.