With Nani and Anderson drifting in and out of form and favour at Old Trafford and Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes rapidly reaching their "sell by" date, Sir Alex Ferguson may well be considering strengthening his fractured Manchester United midfield in the "January sales."
He missed out on a few targets, in this respect, over the summer window and is certain to be more ruthless in his pursuit of his quarry for the Premier League and, hopefully, the Champions League run-ins in the New Year.
His priority will, surely, be to find a central playmaker in the mould of Scholes. He will, almost certainly, ask the board to dig deep into their pockets to acquire an established name or take a punt, save a few million, and speculate on a younger, unproven player with potential.
Below, I have suggested six players who could well fit the brief—several of whom Sir Alex has already expressed an interest in.
The first three identified fall into the established name’category, whilst numbers four to six are less well- known but, nevertheless, highly promising.
What do you think?
Sir Alex showed interest in the Brazilian playmaker over the summer to no avail.
Recent rumours abound suggesting that some sort of deal has been mooted to swap Hernandez for Kaka to avoid the vast sum that Real Madrid would no doubt otherwise be asking in a straightforward transfer deal.
Hernandez is apparently behind Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck in United’s striking pecking order. Assuming Real would be interested in the deal, it could be a possibility, despite Sir Alex’s oft stated preference to sign younger players.
2) Joao Moutinho (Club-Porto, Age 25)
This is probably Sir Alex’s top choice.
As a gifted and skillful midfielder who impressed for Portugal in the Euros, Moutinho fits the bill age wise and has the experience that would see him up and running at Old Trafford.
Supposedly, United offered £20 million over the summer, which was dismissed by the Porto board who have a reputation for striking a tough deal.
Porto would probably not accept less than £30 million and, as he is under contract until 2015 and there is plenty of interest from elsewhere (including Spurs), the Portuguese champions are in a fairly strong negotiating position.
3) Daniele de Rossi (Club-Roma, Age 29)
Another Euro success, de Rossi is the archetypal holding midfielder who could add stability to United’s, at times, porous midfield.
Neighbour’s Man City, amongst others, were after de Rossi in the summer. Roma claimed they turned down an offer of £80 million for him which would certainly rule out United by about £50 million.
He seems pretty happy at his home town club and it would take a change of heart from him and his club for him to find his way to Old Trafford.
4) Thiago Alcantara (Club- Barcelona, Age 21)
Rumour has it that Sir Alex has set his sights on the Spanish "tyro" and he would perfectly fit the bill as a creative, central midfielder in the absence of Scholes.
The good news for United is that he doesn’t seem to be part of Tito Vilanova’s plans (only two La Liga starts this season as we go to press).
Who would you choose?
He is contracted at the Nou Camp until 2015 and is currently injured, but United are still interested and he could find himself moving to wetter climes before long.
5) Julian Draxler (Club-F.C Schalke, Age 19)
A bit of an outsider, maybe, and he is a wide player rather than a central midfielder, but Draxler has enormous potential and would be very affordable.
He is known as a right footed winger who plays on the left.
Bye, bye Nani?
6) Christian Eriksen (Club-Ajax,Age 20)
Sir Alex was very impressed with the Danish playmaker in his performances against United in last season’s Europa Cup.
Over the summer Eriksen made noises about being keen to sign for United but later pledged to stay at Ajax.
He was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup and has recently been rated as worth £20 million, putting him well within reach of United’s budget.