In the build-up to any transfer window, fans of every club both big and small will have their idea of the ideal bit of business; the player they want to see in their team’s colours above all others.
In the spectrum of big clubs, Manchester United are certainly one of the biggest and a big club means big-name targets, with some of the world’s finest talents being linked with a move to Old Trafford.
Here, we take a look at who Manchester United supporters would most like to see plying their trade as a Red Devil and just how likely it is that the move will materialise.
Rodriguez in the Premier League
Given his meteoric rise through the European ranks over the last two years, James Rodriguez is regularly looked upon as one of South America’s brightest talents.
The Colombian forward frequently earns comparisons to his compatriot and former superstar, Carlos Valderrama, being likened to the retired midfielder in terms of playmaking ability.
Rodriguez has quickly risen through Porto’s ranks and is now one of their brightest talents and just another well-scouted name now being tipped for an Estádio do Dragão exit.
According to the Metro, Manchester United were looking to use the funds raised by a Nani departure to fund a move for Rodriguez in the January transfer window.
However, as BBC Sport explains, Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t appear keen on getting rid of the Portuguese international just yet, making that option quite difficult to see coming off.
Rodriguez is known to have a release clause of £38 million (via talkSPORT), but it’s currently unknown as to whether his club would actually settle for a fee less than that were it of a high enough value.
Porto have made a very respectable habit of bringing players in for low fees, nurturing them to become even more talented before then selling them on for great profit. The most recent examples of this would be Hulk, Alvaro Pereira, Radamel Falcao and Raul Meireles.
Sir Alex Ferguson has always utilised the wings to their maximum, making it easy to see why Rodriguez would appear to fit the Manchester United bill amongst the club and supporters, too.
The art of the box-to-box midfielder is one that has deteriorated in recent years, but its absence has only highlighted the need for a player able to take the role to a higher standard.
In decades gone by, it was Lothar Matthäus, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Marco Tardelli that could fulfil the needs as both an anchorman and a playmaker well, but now there’s a new breed of the position coming through.
Currently being tipped for a very bright future with the Holland national team, Kevin Strootman has made great waves with PSV of late and according to talkSPORT (h/t Daily Mail), is edging towards an Old Trafford switch.
The occasional PSV captain may be just 22 years old, but his commanding presence at the core of his team’s midfield means that he gets just as much respect as any other player on the pitch.
It’s no secret that with Shinji Kagawa now at the club, the next thing the Red Devils’ midfield needs is a bit of bite, something that Strootman would provide in spades.
The tough-tackling middleman is also something of an offensive threat, having scored seven goals and made seven assists for both club and country so far this season.
The kind of “engine-room” player is becoming increasingly valuable and can even cancel out the need to have two midfielders specifically designated to defend and create.
With the wealth of attacking talent currently calling Old Trafford their home, it’s surprising to even hear that Manchester United are looking to sign another forward anytime soon.
As if the scoring exploits of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck weren’t enough, the Premier League giants are now moving closer to a swoop for Borussia Dortmund hitman, Robert Lewandowski (via Daily Mail).
At the end of the day, strikers are the often the most glamorous part of football; the players that most regularly get the glory of scoring goals, the most sought-after part of the sport.
In 26 appearances so far this season, the Polish international has pitched in with a rather prolific tally of 16 goals and nine assists across all competitions.
This is added to the incredible record of 30 goals and 12 assists Lewandowski racked up during the 2011-12 campaign, courting massive interest from Europe’s top clubs.
From his goalscoring exploits in recent years, it would be simple to see why any side would have no problem in wanting to sign Lewandowski, it’s just a matter of where he’d fit in at Old Trafford.
It’s quite possible that were the forward to become a Red Devil, it would signal the much talked about change of Wayne Rooney coming back into a role more closely linked to the midfield, allowing Lewandowski and RVP to flourish as a strike partnership.
Whatever the dynamics of the move may be, Lewandowski’s scoring records certainly point toward a talent capable of succeeding at one of the world’s biggest clubs.
And it’s Lewandowski’s Borussia Dortmund teammate, Mats Hummels, who accounts for another chunk of Manchester United’s interest in current Bundesliga stars.
If this season has taught us anything so far, it’s that while Manchester United’s attack may be taken care of for the time being, the defence is in tatters compared to the usual standards maintained at Old Trafford.
As I write, Ferguson’s men have just the 12th-best defence in England’s top flight, conceding an average of 1.40 goals per game and managing to keep just four clean sheets in the Premier League so far this season.
Fortunately for Manchester United, their offensive strength has allowed them to get out of more than a few sticky situations and assume their throne at the summit of the table.
However, with Rio Ferdinand featuring less and less for the team and Nemanja Vidic struggling to maintain long bouts of fitness away from injury, it’s easy to see why defensive reinforcements may be considered.
Hummels has been seen as one of Germany’s most consistent talents in recent years, playing a major role in Borussia Dortmund’s back-to-back Bundesliga title victories.
That being said, it wasn’t long ago that the German international penned a contract extension with the Yellow and Blacks, tying him to the club until 2017 and making the thought of any exit that much more unbelievable.
Hummels’ switch seems unlikely at this time, but that won’t stop fans of the club wishing to see him as a Red anytime soon.
Although Patrice Evra has admittedly gone through a period of improvement of late, that doesn’t change the fact that the Frenchman is now 31 years old and an uncertainty in terms of top-level longevity.
Over the summer, United brought in Alexander Büttner as a replacement left-back while Fabio da Silva spent the season on loan with QPR, but a more immediate solution may be required.
The fee being linked with the Toffees’ Goodison departure is circulating around the £15 million mark, although that figure could fluctuate in the coming weeks.
Baines has played every minute of Everton’s 2012-13 Premier League campaign so far, providing two goals and four assists in the process, a very decent return for a full-back.
It’s also important to note that in a world where the modern full-back is required as much in attack as he is in defence, Baines seldom gets caught out of position and is a seriously potent defensive threat and also goes forward well.
Should Evra’s age begin to have an impact on how long he can last as a Manchester United player, Baines would certainly be the chosen replacement amongst many a Red Devil fan.