FIVE January transfer opportunities Man United must capitalise on

The summer transfer window may be over but we at Football Fancast are already looking forward to it’s winter counterpart.

Indeed, the January window rubs certain Premier League managers up the wrong way (ahem, Arsene Wenger), but there are certainly deals to be had, providing you’re looking in the right places.

That’s something Louis van Gaal should  particularly take on board – his ‘Gaalacticos’ saw Manchester United spend around £150million during the off-season, and if more recruitment is planned for January, it should be done with value-for-money in mind.

Thus, just in case the Dutchman is short on ideas (although telling him that to his face probably isn’t wise) we’ve come up with a list of FIVE transfer opportunities United must capitalise on in the new year.

Some want to experience a higher level of football, others have ridiculously cheap release clauses and a few are bosman-bound stars, about to be thrown on the transfer scrapheap. So without further ado…

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Louis van Gaal[/ffc-gallery]

RON VLAAR

Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa)
With Manchester United’s attempts to persuade Mats Hummels to swap Borussia Dortmund for Old Trafford falling on deaf ears, the Red Devils need to line up some more realistic centre-back targets for the January window, specifically Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar.

Concrete Ron may not be the most talented centre-half to ever grace Carrington, but he’s as tough as… well, concrete, and has more than proved himself in the Premier League over the last few years by captaining the Villians to consecutive top flight survivals.

Furthermore, the 29 year-old’s World Cup displays at the heart of Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side were nothing short of talismanic. Here’s a look at Vlaar in action for Oranje:

With Johnny Evans now constituting Manchester United’s most established defender at the ripe old age of 26, the Red Devils’ defence is calling out for a character like Vlaar to add experience and organisation.

Furthermore, his contract at Villa Park is set to expire at the end of the season, an issue so urgent Paul Lambert is holding a meeting with Randy Lerner in the US to discuss his budgets.

Unless Vlaar agrees new terms, Aston Villa will be obliged to sell in January. There are already rumours of a £4million bid from United:

But Arsenal, Tottenham and Southampton, to name a few, have all been linked since the summer.

JAN VERTONGHEN

Jan Vertonghen
A more coveted – and thus expensive – option at centre-half could come in the form of Jan Vertonghen.

The Tottenham star is regarded as one of the Premier League’s top centre-backs and his front-footed style epitomises Louis van Gaal’s attacking ethos – in truth, the Red Devils should have been targeting him months ago.

Indeed, the 27 year-old gained his standing in England through marauding displays during his inaugural Premier League season, finishing up with seven goals in all competitions – the majority of which were from open play. Here’s a look at his stats from that campaign:

Vertonghen 2012

And the Belgium international in action:

Manchester United’s defence has lacked that kind of ball-playing presence ever since Rio Ferdinand’s pace began to wane, whilst his leadership qualities will be vital to a Red Devils backline that’s lacked direction and organisation this season.

Despite Louis van Gaal’s interest in the defender seemingly rather limited, a prime transfer opportunity has come United’s way. Vertonghen has just ended contract talks at White Hart Lane without signing a new deal, putting his future in serious doubt:

Daniel Levy is known for his persistent refusal to let Tottenham’s star players leave for rival Premier League clubs. But he may be forced to make an exception with Vertonghen if he’s approached with a decent offer – likely around the £20million mark – in January.

MARCO REUS

Marco Reus
The last thing Manchester United need right now is another attacking signing. Louis van Gaal is already struggling to find room for Juan Mata, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao in the same starting line-up.

But come the January window, upon the proviso that circumstances do not abruptly change, the Red Devils will find the opportunity to snap up Germany ace Marco Reus impossible to ignore.

Indeed, the Borussia Dortmund winger has been nothing short of incredible after moving to Westfalen in 2012. He helped the Black Yellows reach the Champions League final a year later and last term claimed the Bundesliga’s Player of the Year award.

In the process, Reus’ goals and assists – an incredible 16 strikes and 14 set-ups in the league last season – has seen his stock dramatically rise throughout Europe. Here’s a look at the 25 year-old in action:

Reus can adopt the roles of scorer or provider, capable of playing anywhere across the front and even at No.10. His technical qualities are underpinned by incredible pace – something the current United squad, in comparison to its many forbearers, desperately lacks.

Most appealingly of all, the German international’s contract includes a £20million release clause. That’s not set to come into effect until next summer, but unless Dortmund get their star attacker to agree new terms, it will be impossible for them to turn down large offers in January.

But Arsenal and Liverpool have been strongly linked too, and in truth, most clubs in Europe will be keen to test the waters when the transfer window reopens.

PACO ALCACER

Sevilla v Valencia - UEFA Europa League Semi Final First Leg
Manchester United are hardly short on front-men right now. In fact, on paper, they possess one of world football’s most fearsome strike-forces.

But with Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie suffering from long-term injury problems, and van Gaal essentially dismissing Wayne Rooney’s future as a striker last month, another goal-getter wouldn’t go amiss in the new year.

In that regard, the Red Devils should be targeting Valencia prodigy Paco Alcacer, already dubbed as ‘the bargain of Europe‘ by one Spanish publication due to his £15million release clause.

Indeed, the21 year-old has been nothing short of potent over the last twelve months, as shown below:

Alcacer

Here’s a look at Alcacer in action:

Fernando Torres-esque dare I say, and after such strong form, Alcacer has muscled his way into Vincente del Bosque’s Spain squad, netting four times in three international appearances since his debut in August.

The Spaniard looks like a real talent and at £15million is more than worth the gamble. Arsenal and Chelsea have also been linked however, whilst reports claim Valencia are about to bump up Alcacer’s release clause to a whopping £40million:

SAMI KHEDIRA

Khedira
Louis van Gaal appears to have his heart set on signing Netherlands international Kevin Strootman in January, but should the midfield enforcer not be available, Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira remains an impressive alternative.

A Champions League and World Cup winner, the 27 year-old is considered to be one of the leading midfielders in world football. Here’s a look at the Germany international in action:

Khedira isn’t quite the tough-tackling holding midfielder he’s often made out to be. Just take a look at his heatmap from Germany’s 7-1 victory over Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals:

Khedira heatmap

And his statistics compared to Europe’s other top defensive midfielders last season:

Khedira vs

But he provides box-to-box energy and power, inventiveness going forward and added threat in the air. Amid the players of great technical quality Louis van Gaal amassed during the summer, Khedira’s battering ram approach could be the pefect compliment.

Furthermore, a January departure from the Bernabeu is looking increasingly likely, with the former Stuttgart star yet to extend his contract past the summer. That could see him leave Los Blancos for a pittance, but speculation thus far suggests Arsenal are his likeliest suitors:

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