For Louis van Gaal it has been a case of the new year bringing the same old problems. On Sunday, the Dutch coach watched his Manchester United side beat lower division Yeovil Town 2-0 in the FA Cup third round, but the victory was again overshadowed by further injuries to his defense. In a debut season at Old Trafford that has been beset by injury problems, particularly to his backline, Rafael and Luke Shaw have now been ruled out. Their status will only increase calls for Manchester United to add to their defensive options in the January transfer window.
On Monday, United received some encouraging news about one of their reported transfer targets, although he won’t provide an instant fix. West Ham center-back Winston Reid is thought to be interesting both Arsenal and Manchester United, and his manager has now revealed that he expects the New Zealand international to move on once his contract expires in the summer.
“There is not future for Winston Reid at West Ham United at the moment,” Sam Allardyce said at a press conference on Monday. “The only future for Winston at the moment is that his contract finishes the 30th June. He hasn’t said that he is or he isn’t going to sign but you’d air on the back that he isn’t by the feel of it, by the look of it at this moment of time. So I’d say that its highly unlikely that Winston’s going to sign for us based on what people are saying to me.”
Allardyce has previously insisted, though, that Reid would not leave in January, although the 26-year-old can now begin negotiating a free transfer with clubs outside of England.
Manchester United have also been linked with costlier defensive targets. In a report from Madrid-based sports daily Marca, it is suggested that United have been keeping an eye on Portugal international Pepe. The 31-year-old’s future has looked in doubt in the past, with his place under threat from the younger Raphael Varane. However, he has been a key fixture in the side under Carlo Ancelotti and Marca believes that his contract could now be extended beyond the summer of 2016.
Instead, it is suggested that it is Varane’s future at the Bernabeu that is now in jeopardy. The 21-year-old, who was close to joining Manchester United before being signed by Real Madrid in 2011, has started just four matches in La Liga this season. Citing stories in Spain, the Daily Express reports that Varane is keen on a £20 million January transfer to either United, or Chelsea -- managed by his former Real Madrid coach and known admirer Jose Mourinho.
While the focus is believed to be on reinforcing the defense and midfield, no transfer window would be complete without Manchester United being linked with Wesley Sneijder. And this month is no different. While the likes of the Express have suggested that Van Gaal wanted a reunion with the Dutch playmaker, there appeared set to be some concrete movement with Juventus thought to be pursuing a deal. However, despite suggestions to the contrary, the 30-year-old’s agent has insisted his client is content with the Turkish club, while also revealing the price any suitor would have to pay to prize him away.
“Anybody who wants Wesley Sneijder will have to pay Galatasaray his release clause, which is 20 million euros (£15.7 million),” Guido Albers, according to ESPN. “He's not going to leave for two, five or even 10 million. I've spoken with the club and Galatasaray have no intention of selling Sneijder, who's extremely happy in Istanbul. If anybody does want him, then they will first have to speak to the club and then with me.”