Manchester United celebrated a fifth straight win on Monday to move third in the Premier League table, yet there continues to be much speculation that Louis van Gaal will look to add to his squad in the January transfer window. After a difficult start to Van Gaal’s reign, United now find themselves in the position targeted by the club at the start of the campaign.
Yet problems remain. Chris Smalling went off injured in the first half of the 2-1 victory at Southampton to continue the injury problems that have blighted the whole squad, but particularly a defense that already faced questions about its quality. In recent days the club has seen itself linked strongly with one of the men in opposition on Monday evening at St Mary’s, right-back Nathaniel Clyne. The 23-year-old has excelled both defensively and getting forward in a Southampton side that made a fine start to the season. Last month he earned his first caps for England in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia and the friendly against Scotland.
With the currently injured Rafael the only natural right-back in United’s squad, it is easy to see why they would be interested. However, especially after losing so many players in the summer, Southampton are thought to be desperate to hang onto Clyne and are currently in talks to extend his contract beyond the summer of 2016. Ahead of the clash with United, Southampton manager Ronald Koeman stated that he was relaxed about the situation.
“If I have to be worried about those kind of rumors, then I will be worried every day and I don't like that,” he said, reports ESPN. “I like my life and I like to be positive. It's no issue.”
If the speculation is true, it would not be the first time Clyne has attracted the interest of Manchester United. They were one of the clubs looking at him when he left Crystal Palace in 2012, but Clyne said afterward that he chose Southampton because of the opportunity for more regular game time.
Perhaps the bigger need for United right now is at center-back. Yet a top quality operator in that key position could be hard to come by in the January transfer window. The club are widely believed to have a keen interest in Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin, although the Spanish champions’ manager Diego Simeone recently laughed off the speculation. And, according to Spanish outlet Fichajes, Atletico have ruled out selling their talismanic Uruguayan defender. Such a report is hardly a revelation, with it always expected that United would have to pay up Godin’s €36 million £28.5 million release clause.
It is a deal that is likely to prove extremely difficult to do in January, although recent reports suggest that the fee would be far from beyond Manchester United next summer. Despite a record outlay in the last transfer window, several publications have written that Van Gaal will be given another £150 million to spend in the next close season. The Dutchman, though, has little time for such talk.
“I think it is disgusting always writing about numbers,” he said in his press conference on Friday. “I don’t think that [executive vice chairman] Ed Woodward said anything about it. I don’t think that I have said anything about it. “It is disrespectful to my players and I don’t like to talk about it.”
The Guardian was among the publications to report on the mammoth budget, with Dutch duo Arjen Robben and Kevin Strootman among the players they stated were on Manchester United’s shopping list. Given that Robben will turn 31 next month, he seems an unlikely target for a high-price bid, working with Van Gaal in the Netherlands setup.
Strootman has been linked with United since Van Gaal’s arrival and it is he who appears a likelier arrival at Old Trafford. The midfielder made his first start on Saturday after an eight month absence with a cruciate knee ligament injury that caused him to miss the World Cup. And the Daily Mirror reports he could be lured from Roma as early as next month’s transfer window, particularly if the Italian side crash out of the Champions League this week.