The footballing equivalent of those dreaded celebrity gossip magazines that quote ‘inside sources’ on Kim Kardashian’s alleged argument with her postman, the British tabloids’ constant spewing of fact-less transfer rumours rarely produces a true story.
But every now and then, the odd rumour comes to the surface that appears to have some weight behind it, providing you’re prepared to read between the lines.
And we may be amid the Premier League’s silly season, with the January window now upon us, but there’s a few stories involving Manchester United this month that might actually materialise into something genuine.
Just to prove it, here’s FIVE we at Football Fancast are tipping to be the real McCoy.
This deal appears to be all but officially confirmed; former Barcelona No.1 Victor Valdes has been training with Manchester United since October and reports this morning claim they’re on the verge of agreeing an eighteen month contract with the Spain international.
The 32 year-old left the Nou Camp during the summer, boasting six La Liga titles, three Champions League titles and five Zamora Trophies (Spain’s goalkeeper of the year award) from his eleven campaigns as the Catalan outfit’s first choice keeper.
Since without a club, there’s no fee involved, and Valdes is seen by many as the ideal understudy to the ever-improving David De Gea.
A transfer saga that just won’t go away, Manchester United launched several bids for Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels during the summer and are expected to follow up their interest this January.
The Red Devils’ desperate need for an established, top-quality centre-half is no secret, with Louis van Gaal forced to depend upon academy centre-back duo Tyler Blackett and Patrick McNair on a combined 17 occasions already this season, out of a possible 20 in the Premier League.
A World Cup winner, famed for his blend of aerial dominance, anticipatory defending and a Franz Beckenbauer-esque ability to join or instigate attacks, the German international fits the bill perfectly.
The 25 year-old denounced United’s interest during the summer, instead accepting the club captaincy at Westfalen. But with the Black-Yellows now joint-bottom of the Bundesliga table after an unprecedented slump in form, Hummels may be reconsidering his options this January.
Italian journalist Gianluigi Longari claimed earlier this week that the Red Devils have already made another offer for the Bundesliga star, and even if this deal doesn’t happen by the end of the month, it will more than likely take place in the summer.
Failing that, don’t be too surprised if the Red Devils seek a cheaper alternative in Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar.
The 29 year-old may not be the most talented defender to ever grace Old Trafford but his experience and dependability should bring a new sense of calmness to the chaotic heart of Manchester United’s defence.
Furthermore, the Netherlands international looked like a world-beater under Louis van Gaal’s direction at Brazil 2014, especially as the central figure in a back three – a system the United boss has found himself reverting back to on countless occasions this term.
Most interestingly of all, Vlaar’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season and unless new terms are agreed by the end of the month, Villa will be forced to sell. Speculation this afternoon, courtesy of The Express, claims United are already testing the waters with a £1.5million offer.
Another transfer target that will be of no secret to Manchester United fans, Louis van Gaal practically admitted his interest in Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman back in July, and had it not been for a World Cup-ending knee injury, he would likely have arrived at Old Trafford during the summer.
The Red Devils desperately need a midfield enforcer and van Gaal knows Strootman well, having worked closely with the 24 year-old through the Oranje set up over the last few years and even issued him the captain’s armband on occasion.
Referred to as the Dutch Roy Keane and unique in his authoritarian-yet-progressive style, in short, a feast of feisty tackles and goals, the Roma star seems like a natural fit for United.
The only real issue is one of price-tag. Having only moved to the Stadio Olympico 18 months ago, Roma appear in no mood to sell and have rated Strootman as highly as £79million in the past.
As reported by the Daily Mail, amongst others, in November, the current transfer window could bring an abrupt end to Darren Fletcher’s Manchester United career.
The Scotland international’s commitment remains undoubted and he has seen a fair bit of action this season – 365 minutes in the Premier League to be precise. But he’s not been the same player since his unfortunate illness and has often looked out of his depth over the last 18 months.
There are reports of interest from Hull City and with his contract entering it’s final six months, the timing feels right for the 30 year-old to move on. He was replaced as vice-captain by Michael Carrick back in December.
Whether his departure takes place this month or in the summer however, will likely depend on United securing another central midfielder first.