Mats Hummels
Mats Hummels' close connection with Borussia Dortmund and coach Jürgen Klopp, left, means it will be difficult to prize him away from the Bundesliga club. Reuters

Manchester United’s defensive woes are unlikely to be solved by the transfer of Mats Hummels in the near future. Not helped by a spate of injuries, the early stages of Louis van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford have been characterized by problems at center-back. While the arrival of Angel di Maria, among others, have dramatically improved United’s options going forward, the failure to adequately replace departed long-time defensive stalwarts Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in the summer was laid bare in a recent shock 5-3 defeat to Leicester City.

Of Manchester United’s summer transfers, only Marcos Rojo was an established center-back, and even he is used as a left-back at international level for Argentina. The club was strongly linked to Borussia Dortmund center-back Hummels in the close season, however, a deal always appeared unlikely given that the German side had already lost one big-name player in the transfer window, in striker Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich. But now it appears that United, and other rumored interested parties Real Madrid and Barcelona, may have to forget about signing the German World Cup winner any time soon.

“It’s nice to hear that big clubs like that are interested in you,” he told the International Bundesliga Magazine. “I take that as a compliment. But it doesn’t influence me in any way otherwise. We earn enough here in Dortmund. There will always be someone who can pay more than BVB. But Dortmund have made a lot of progress during my time here, the wages are not at the level they were six years ago. In any case: I believe that it’s enough for me. If one day I start thinking about playing abroad, money won’t be the reason. But I don’t even think about that at the moment. We still have so much further to go here.”

Manchester United then will likely have to explore other targets then if they are to bolster the center of their defense. According to the Daily Express, one of the players being checked out is Juventus’ Angelo Ogbonna. The Italy international joined the Serie A champions from local rivals Torino last summer, having previously been linked with a transfer to Old Trafford. While he didn’t have the best of first seasons with Juventus, he has fared better in the early part of this campaign under new coach Massimiliano Allegri.

The Express reports that United could target Ogbonna as part of a £52 million transfer package that also includes Arturo Vidal. The Chilean midfielder was involved in this summer’s most enduring transfer saga, with United’s interest eventually coming to nothing. However, with Vidal now back in action following a knee injury, which was believed to have deterred United from matching Juventus’ asking price, an approach could be made in the future.

While the defense and midfield currently require more attention, the bulk of the transfer speculation surrounding Manchester Untied continues to be on the subject of a possible return to Old Trafford for star forward Cristiano Ronaldo. It has been widely reported that United have assessed how much it would take to sign the current Ballon d’Or winner, who left United for United for a then record £80 million transfer fee in 2009. Yet, while Ronaldo has not shied away from continuing to express his affection for his former employers, a five-year contract that he signed just 12 months ago to make him the then highest-paid player in the world means a return to United in the near future is unlikely. And that, too, is the view of Sky Sports’ Spanish soccer expert Guillem Balague.

“It is quite clear that Manchester United are letting all this continue because they are interested in Cristiano Ronaldo,” he told Sky Sports’ Revista de La Liga. “Cristiano Ronaldo dreams and would like to go back to Manchester United. It’s just the timing which I think people are getting wrong.

"People want this to happen in January, if possible. It’s not going to happen. In the summer? I don’t think it’s going to happen. Real Madrid have got no intention whatsoever of selling Cristiano Ronaldo next summer. In two years’ time I would say yes, that is possibly the time when he will be 31 going on 32, for Real Madrid to say: ‘OK, if we can cash in on him, brilliant. He has done a lot for us, but that’s it, time to move on.’”