Just four days remain before Manchester United kick off their Premier League season against Tottenham, but the club may continue to be frustrated in their attempts to further bolster their squad. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay and Sergio Romero have all arrived, but manager Louis van Gaal is thought to still be keen to improve his options in attack and at the center of his defense.
United’s urgency to address their forward lineup could well be heightened by the seemingly impending departure of Ángel di María. The Argentinian became a British record signing when joining from Real Madrid in a £59.7 million transfer, but endured a difficult first season. Having failed to join up with the United squad on their preseason tour, he is now in Doha to undergo a medical with the Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain ahead of an expected £44-million move to the French champions.
Van Gaal will surely be seeking a replacement. For much of the past year, it has been rumored that United are ready and willing to obliterate the price paid for Di María by signing another Real Madrid star, Gareth Bale. The Sun has now claimed that United have made two £100-million bids for the Welshman.
Yet despite United’s apparent determination to land the former Tottenham man, the prospect of him moving to Old Trafford this summer remain extremely unlikely. Indeed, new Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has stressed that Bale is integral to his plans for the upcoming campaign.
“Obviously Gareth is a key player for us but I can't talk about offers for our players,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “He's an important member of the squad; I know he wants to play well and that he is happy. I’m sure he’s going to have a great season.”
Benitez had a similar message on the subject of another Real Madrid forward linked with a transfer to Manchester United. Karim Benzema’s future has been the subject of much discussion, with Benitez rumored to be keen on alternative striking options and Arsenal thought to be ready to pounce. The Daily Mirror has also claimed that United hold an interest in a player who has frequently been linked with the club in recent years. Benitez, though, has poured cold water on the speculation.
“He will stay with us, I can't see any reason why he would leave,” he said. We are very happy with him.”
Manchester United’s prime target at Real Madrid this summer, though, has been Sergio Ramos. The 29-year-old, who became the club’s captain following the exit of Iker Casillas last month, had made his desire to leave the club clear as United attempted to secure his signing as a condition for David de Gea moving in the opposite direction. But reports in Spain suggest it is now increasingly likely that Ramos will agree a new contract at the Bernabeu.
And United may be similarly frustrated should they, as the Daily Express suggests they will, go after Ramos’ defensive colleague Pepe. The Portugal international could find himself struggling for a starting berth in a battle with Ramos and Raphael Varane this season, but Mara reports that he is also on the verge of signing a new contract.
Manchester United could well have more fortune pursuing Barcelona forward Pedro. Speculation has been fierce in recent weeks that the World Cup winner could be set for a move after his valuation was lowered to 30 million euros (£21 million) by last season’s treble winners. And Di María’s exit may provide the impetus for United to now get a deal over the line. Barcelona-based newspaper Sport reports that United officials will hold a meeting with their Barcelona counterparts this week to discuss the transfer, with the only hurdle thought to be United’s reluctance to pay more than 25 million euros (£17.5 million).