Oh silly season, once again you’re throwing up ridiculous transfer rumour after ridiculous transfer rumour with apparently no necessity for actual facts.
Manchester United are expected to be relatively busy this month, having spent an incredible £150million during the summer to kick-start Louis van Gaal’s revolution at Old Trafford, and resultantly, they’ve been the focus of much speculation in the British media.
Some links, such as United’s move for German World Cup winner Mats Hummels, will undoubtedly leave the club’s fans brimming with optimism. Others, however, not quite so much.
January is always a uniquely chaotic time of year for Premier League clubs however and anything could happen between now and the end of the transfer window.
With that in mind, here’s the FIVE rumoured transfer targets United should be avoiding at all costs.
Nicolas Otamendi is certainly a talented centre-back, but not to such an extent that Manchester United should be paying £27million for his services, as reported by The Express, let alone activating his £38million release clause.
Indeed, the 26 year-old boasts impressive spells with Porto and Valencia, this term averaging 2.5 tackles, 3.2 interceptions and 3.5 successful aerial duels per match in La Liga, but it speaks volumes that he didn’t even get into Argentina’s World Cup squad and has picked up just 19 caps since his international debut in 2009, despite the limits of quality at the heart of Albiceleste’s back line.
There are far cheaper options available to United this month, not least including West Ham’s Winston Reid, who offers vital Premier League experience, FC Basel’s Fabian Schar and Atletico Madrid’s Miranda, who has a £24million release clause.
Compared to Otamend’s price-tag, even Borussia Dortmund’s alleged £47million valuation of Mats Hummels seems like good value for money.
Rather tellingly, United have sought to deny all rumours claiming they’d launched a £27million bid for the Valencia stalwart.
Representing the opposite end of the centre-back spectrum is Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar, whom the Birmingham outfit may be forced to sell on the cheap this January with his current contract entering its final six months.
Admittedly, the Netherlands international looked like a world-beater under Louis van Gaal’s direction at Brazil 2014 and the heart of United’s defence desperately craves an experienced leadership figure of the 29 year-old’s variety.
But is Vlaar true Manchester United standard? Is he any better than Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans or Marcos Rojo? Despite his World Cup heroics, the 6 foot 3 centre-back has never particularly stood out in the Premier League and has even failed to make the Villains’ starting Xi on select occasions over the last few years.
If van Gaal is looking for stop-gap solutions to United’s defensive frailties this January, then perhaps the Dutchman is a viable option. But he doesn’t address the Red Devils problems long-term and will do little more than improve the squad depth at Old Trafford.
I’m sure LVG and the fans would prefer to see game-time invested in some of the club’s academy products, such as Tyler Blackett and Patrick McNair.
Having bagged an incredible ten goals and six assists in 18 Serie A appearances this season, it’s understandable that Manchester United are looking at Palermo sensation Paulo Dybala – especially with Radamel Falcao yet to justify the £46million it would take to land his services permanently in the summer.
The young Argentine, already drawing comparisons with Sergio Aguero for his blend of pace, firepower and energetic mobility, is certainly a talented prospect, to some, a future world-beater in the making.
But it seems a bit premature for United to be forking out a whopping £31million for the 21 year-old forward’s services this month, as reported by the Daily Star – at this point, his entire senior career has consisted of just 35 goals in 138 appearances, half of which came in the Argentine second division.
If United are to invest that lofty sum in such an inexperienced player, they should wait until at least the end of the season. Witnessing Dybala at his worst, rather than his best, could convince them otherwise.
One can certainly understand Manchester United’s temptation to sign Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, one of the most potent wingers in world football, being currently short of penetrative quality out wide and desperate to assemble a starting XI that can rival Chelsea and Manchester City’s.
But convincing Los Blancos to sell this January, just 18 months after splashing out a world-record £86million on the welsh wizard, would likely take a fee that far exceeds their original investment. The Telegraph for example, are quoting a £117million bid.
Aged just 25, United would be tying Bale down for his best years, whilst the former Tottenham’s star compatibility with the Premier League, leaving with the PFA Young Player of the Year, PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards before departing for the Bernabeu in summer 2013, remains undoubted.
But there must be options out there that represent far better value for money. Take Fiorentina’s road-running winger extraordinaire Juan Cuadrado for example, who has a release clause of just £27million.
Another Dutchman linked with an Old Trafford move due to the Louis van Gaal connection, Nigel de Jong has been mooted by the tabloids as a potential cut-price remedy to United’s lack of mettle in the middle of the park, with his contract at AC Milan set to expire at the end of the season.
He certainly has experience in the English top flight, lifting the Premier League title with Manchester City in 2012, whilst his credentials on the international stage are equally proven, boasting 80 caps for Oranje and featuring in their 2010 World Cup final.
Unfortunately for De Jong however, mettle in midfield is pretty much all he offers – apart from an absolutely atrocious disciplinary record – which hasn’t done Milan too many favours this season, currently lying in eighth place in Serie A.
The Red Devils certainly require a combative figure in their engine room, but they need one with a far stronger all round game. That could require waiting until the summer, when long-term target Kevin Strootman, currently of Roma, may become available.