Cesc Fabregas
Despite scoring 11 goals and contributing the same number of assists in La Liga last season, Cesc Fabregas has struggled to fit into Barcelona's side. Reuters

Manchester United have made approaches for Barcelona midfield duo Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, according to ESPN. The duo have both been strongly linked to with a move to Old Trafford in recent weeks.

The signing of Thiago would, in theory, be more straightforward given that a clause in his contract allows him to leave for €18 million (£15.4m) this summer having failed to appear in 60 percent of Barcelona’s matches this season. The 22-year-old has failed to commit his future to the club, saying that he will discuss the matter after the European Under-21 Championships next month.

Fabregas’ signing would raise more eyebrows, given his time as captain for United’s Premier League rivals Arsenal as well as the fanfare that went into Barcelona’s re-signing of the player who came through their youth ranks. Yet, the 26-year-old has failed to have the impact on the Barcelona side that many at Camp Nou will have anticipated. With Xavi and Andres Iniesta continuing to be key cogs in midfield, Fabregas has struggled to integrate effectively, often being used in a more advanced role.

ESPN reports that Manchester United sources have confirmed that there have been discussions with Barcelona over both players. While Barcelona are still unsure about Fabregas’ future, United are said to believe that an offer in excess of £25 million may prove too good to turn down. That may be true. Barcelona have already splashed out on the signing of Neymar and there are still gaps in their squad to fill -- notably in defense and in goal. With Barcelona operating on a much tighter budget than rivals Real Madrid, the extra income from Fabregas’ sale could be beneficial.

It is no surprise that incoming United boss David Moyes sees bolstering his midfield as one of his first objectives at Old Trafford. United have lacked presence in the middle of the pitch for several seasons and they have been further weakened by the retirement of Paul Scholes and continuing doubts about the fitness of Darren Fletcher. Brazilian midfielder Anderson could also depart the club in the coming months.

ESPN also asserts that United still have an interest in PSV Eindhoven’s Kevin Strootman. The dynamic midfielder has been interesting United for 18 months and it appears that Moyes is also a fan. Aged 23, he has already captained his country and his tough tackling combined with ability on the ball would be welcomed in United’s midfield. It could be that Strootman is seen as an alternative to Marouane Fellaini -- the Everton midfielder with whom United have also been linked.

There has also again been talk that United could still make a move for Real Madrid’s Angel di Maria. There has been much speculation over the Argentinian winger’s future, with Portuguese publication A Bola now claiming that he is a €25 million (£21.4m) target for Paris Saint-Germain. According to Spanish newspaper Marca, United, along with Manchester City, are also interested in the 25-year-old, who moved to the Bernabeu from Benfica in 2010.

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