After returning to the Champions League, or at least the playoffs for the group stage, it is set to be a big summer at Manchester United. Going into Louis van Gaal’s second season in charge at Old Trafford, the Dutch coach will be given significant funds to continue the overhaul of his squad, with some reports estimating that as much as £150 million could be made available in the transfer market.
Fresh reports in Spain are suggesting that a massive chunk of that could go on two players from Real Madrid -- Gareth Bale and Raphael Varane. The claim, from Spanish TV station Cuatro and Barcelona-based sports daily Mundo Deportivo, that United will launch a 150 million euros (£110 million) bid for the pair, comes on the same day as Rafa Benitez was unveiled as the new manager at Real Madrid. It also comes amid continuing speculation over United goalkeeper David de Gea joining the Spanish Giants. According to the story, United want to use a move for the pair as leverage as they face up to the fact that they may be powerless to stop De Gea returning to the Spanish capital. However, it is said that Madrid have flatly rejected the approach.
Bale has been linked with a transfer to Old Trafford throughout what has been a difficult season for the world’s most expensive player. The indications, though, is that the former Tottenham forward intends to stick it out and attempt to prove his worth in Madrid, while president Florentino Perez appears loathed to give up on his huge investment. Varane is another player United chased for some time and who they tried to sign before he joined Real Madrid. The 22-year-old center-back could be more vulnerable to an exit given that he has at times struggled to break up the pairing of Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Benitez’s plans for his defense could be key.
Manchester United’s interests in Spain stretch further than the Madrid duo. According to a report from The Guardian this week, United are confident that they are in prime position to secure a deal for Barcelona right-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian has so far rejected the opportunity to extend his contract beyond this summer, meaning he will become a highly sought-after free agent. Yet, while Paris Saint-Germain are also interested, United are said to believe that they have the upper-hand. Alves, 32, has been a key part of Barcelona’s success since joining the club from Sevilla in 2008, offering crucial width to the team as he motors forward down the right flank.
United are certainly in the market for a right-back, with winger Antonio Valencia filling in there for a large part of the season. Rafael spent much of the campaign injured, but even when fit appeared to lack the confidence of the coaching staff.
Van Gaal has already made it clear he intends to sign a holding midfielder to ease the burden on veteran Michael Carrick. German pair Ilkay Gundogan and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been linked, but a report from Canal Plus in recent days claimed that United were close to agreeing a deal with France international Morgan Schneiderlin. The Southampton man has made it clear he wants to move to a club that can offer a place in the Champions League, and also been linked with Arsenal and Tottenham. ESPN sources, however, state that no club has yet begun negotiations with Southampton, who will be loathed to lose a player that has been one of the best in the Premier League in his position over the past two seasons.