Ángel di María
Ángel di María is set to become Manchester United's most expensive transfer of all time. Reuters

Manchester United look set to complete the signing of Ángel di María from Real Madrid, but may have to nearly double their previous record transfer in order to do so. The Premier League side have stepped up their attempts to capture the Argentina international in recent days, with reports in Spain claiming that a deal has already been struck and that the player could be in Manchester to complete a medical as early as Monday.

According to Marca, Di María will cost an initial €75 million (£60 million), with a further €15 million (£12m) due in possible add-ons. Another Madrid-based sports daily, AS, reports that the fee will be €80 million (£64m). Either way it will obliterate the £37.5 million Manchester United paid Chelsea for Juan Mata in January. It would also be, by some margin, the highest transfer fee ever paid by an English club. Reports in Britain are less emphatic, however. The Guardian states that Manchester are still trying to negotiate Real Madrid’s selling price down from £75 million to nearer £60 million, although there is little to suggest that a compromise won’t be struck.

Di María’s arrival will certainly be a timely one. It has again been a hugely frustrating summer in the transfer market for Manchester United, with the squad failing to be strengthened and overhauled in the manner required and promised by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Louis van Gaal’s reign as manager has also started poorly, with just a solitary point taken from matches against Swansea City and Sunderland.

Still, as with the Mata deal, questions warrant asking about whether Di María is fulfilling a specific need and whether United are getting the best deal. In Van Gaal’s currently favored 3-4-1-2 formation, there is no obvious place for Di María, despite his versatility. In terms of the cost, Madrid are thought to be keen to offload the player and reportedly agreed to sell him to Paris Saint-Germain for €65 (£52m) million last month, bringing into doubt United’s negotiating prowess.

While his arrival would still provide a massive boost to Manchester United, further signings would ideally be required ahead of next Monday’s deadline. The Daily Mirror reports that Van Gaal is now turning his focus to recruiting two members of his Netherlands World Cup squad. According to the tabloid, Milan and former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong could arrive for £10 million, while the versatile Daley Blind is a £15 million target.

The fact that Blind can operate as a center-back, left-back, left wing-back and defensive midfielder is likely to appeal to Van Gaal, whose squad is currently stretched to the limits by injuries and a lack of depth. However, the signings this summer of Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw make Blind’s arrival far less likely.

De Jong, although now aged 29 and certainly not a signing to excite United fans, would undoubtedly add some steel to the team’s midfield. According to the Daily Telegraph, De Jong is being pursued an alternative to Arturo Vidal. United have been linked with the Juventus midfielder throughout the summer, but a deal now looks highly unlikely after a deadline set by the Italian champions for his departure reportedly passed. Doubts about Vidal’s ability to fully recover from a knee injury may have played a part in United not pursuing him stronger. Yet, intriguingly, Van Gaal namechecked Vidal after Sunday’s disappointing draw against Sunderland.

“I cannot say anything about transfers and you have to understand that,” he said, according to the Manchester Evening News. “When a transfer is finished, then we say anything. But now you have to wait and see. If the moment is there Manchester United shall announce it. But it is not only Di María. Maybe Vidal or [Lionel] Messi. We are a big club.”