Marcos Rojo
Manchester United could face a lengthy battle to prize Marcos Rojo away from Sporting Lisbon. Reuters

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has already all-but lost his battle to improve his squad before the start of the Premier League season, and the situation is now verging on desperate with the end of the transfer window just over two weeks away. After the notable disappointments of last summer’s transfer period, a late scramble for signings is something the Premier League giants were expecting to avoid. There is likely particular frustration for the club’s new manager. Van Gaal has frequently lamented the unbalanced nature of his squad since taking the reins, but the only players added to a group that finished a disastrous seventh last season have been Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw -- players identified during David Moyes’s time and only signed off by the Dutch coach.

The failure to secure a transfer for a player long believed to be on his way to Old Trafford, former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, has led to Manchester United targeting Argentina international Marcos Rojo. However, things are again not going smoothly. After United lodged a €20 million (£16m) bid with his club Sporting Lisbon, Rojo handed in a transfer request and then refused to train in order to try and force through the move. Sporting duly responded by disciplining their player and insisting that he was not going anywhere. But the waters have been further muddied by a dispute between Sporting and a third party, which owns 75 percent of Rojo’s rights, which has led to the club terminating their relationship over what they see as undue influence form the company, surely ensuring future legal wrangles. Sporting believe they are under no obligation to sell unless his €30 million (£24m) release clause is met.

“We can only show concern that a fund that deals with millions in assets shows such little ability in arithmetic,” read a statement on Sporting’s official website. “25 percent of €30 million will never be the same as 25 percent of €20 million, especially given that [his former club] Spartak Moscow are due 20 percent of any fee above €5 million. Given the evidence, Sporting would announces that we have today ended the contracts with Doyen.”

Given that Van Gaal currently only has three senior options -- Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans -- to fill the three center-back positions in his 3-4-1-2 formation, it is likely that he will ideally seek more than one defender. ESPN reports that sources have informed them that Manchester United are now targeting Roma’s Mehdi Benatia.

The Morocco international had an outstanding first season with the Italian side, helping them to a second place finish in Serie A. But he has been frequently linked with a transfer away throughout the summer, with strong reports earlier this week that he was being lined up by Chelsea. That speculation was played down by José Mourinho, but United could still have to fight off competition and pay £30 million to convince Roma to part with the 27-year-old.

Another area of his squad that Van Gaal has made clear he wants to strengthen before the close of the transfer window is his wide options. Ángel di María would be Van Gaal’s dream acquisition, but the feeling remains that the Real Madrid star is headed for Paris Saint-Germain. Fiorentina’s Colombia speedster Juan Cuadrado had been widely mooted as an alternative, however, according to The Independent, United no longer view him as a target.

Instead, the Daily Mirror believes that Manchester United could target Atletico Madrid’s Arda Turan. Atletico have strengthened the area of the team in which Turan operates with the signing of young France international Antoine Griezmann, yet it would be a surprise, having already lost so much talent this summer, were they to part with such an influential performer. And he is a significantly different player from either Di María or Cuadrado, lacking that duo’s pace and dynamism.