Could Luka Modric join Manchester United this summer?
Sir Alex Ferguson has more immediate priorities than assessing potential targets to try and sign in the summer. Everton on Sunday and then Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday ensure Manchester United have plenty to focus on in the here and now.
The two legs with Real Madrid will be a pertinent examination of this United team and where they stand quality wise. Based on their performances in the Premier League the signs are generally good, with the Red Devils finding ways to put matches to bed in a fashion their rivals have struggled to match.
So as we get set to possibly find out more about the state of Man United, based on what we have seen so far who could be some potential targets who find their way to Old Trafford ahead of next season?
Conjecture though it might be, there are certain players who could become available who happen to play in positions Ferguson might look to either add to or improve upon. The following list examines these footballers' credentials, their suitability to United and whether or not they are transfers that might happen.
After reading, have your say on whether these are legitimate and/or worthy links or just scuttlebutt. In addition, are there other players Man United should seriously be considering moving for this summer?
It has been tough going for Luka Modric since he made the move to La Liga. Competition for places in the Real Madrid midfield was always going to be fierce, but the difficulties of settling in have been exacerbated by the near-constant in-fighting said to be going on at the Bernabeu.
The Croatian might still have a future in Spain, but given the circumstances it would not be surprising if he was lured back to the English Premier League.
As one of England's biggest clubs, Manchester United have been linked with Modric (as they were here in a Daily Mail story from January) primarily as they are one that could afford his likely transfer fee. However there is also sense in a move for the former Tottenham Hotspur man.
The need for an injection of creativity in midfield has subsided somewhat since the highpoint of speculation linking Man United with Wesley Sneijder a while back. Paul Scholes is still contributing, Tom Cleverley is ever-improving and Michael Carrick is earning the most respect he ever has performing the role of midfield linchpin.
What Modric crucially offers (in addition to his proven quality at Premier League level) is comparative youth, being a good few years younger than Carrick (31) and Scholes (38). If he becomes available this summer Ferguson will surely have to consider snapping up a player capable of doing a job similar to those two. Should he end up somewhere else it could go down as a big opportunity missed.
Patrice Evra is in the midst of a rather topsy-turvy campaign. Going forward the full-back has, statistically, never been more effective. He has scored four times and set up a further five goals.
At the other end though there have been issues, as the Man United defense has looked as poor as it has in a long time this season. As an aging member of back line, there have naturally been questions over Evra's future. Whether there is any validity to them is debatable, he certainly is happy where he is (as can be read here in a Manchester Evening News article).
One name that has frequently been linked with coming in at United to compete at the left-back position is Everton's Leighton Baines (both the Mirror and Daily Mail have been among those running stories in recent months).
Baines is an intriguing transfer prospect for United. The England international is enjoying one of his best seasons ever, to the extent he is genuinely considered as a viable alternative to Ashley Cole in the national team lineup. Quality-wise he is a player who would seem good enough to excel as a Red Devil.
Yet, despite his youthful looks, Baines is 28 years old (Evra is 31). A player is far from done once they turn 30. However, that is the point when they could feasibly not be that far off from passing their peak.
If Ferguson is genuinely interested in Baines it is something for him to consider. At their respective ages it is going to be either him or Evra, and the Frenchman may yet be deemed as having something to contribute. Ferguson might prefer to stick with him and gradually work in a younger player like Alexander Buttner, who is already at the club.
One way or another, we have likely not heard the last of stories linking Baines with a move to Manchester United.
Stories that emerged on Thursday suggesting Frank Lampard would after all be offered a new contract at Chelsea were refuted on Friday by media outlets including The Sun. With this in mind, the Daily Star brought up a link that had been talked about before—Lampard would join Manchester United when his deal at Chelsea expired.
It is one of those rumors you do not want to buy too much into. It might amount to nothing, but even so it is an intriguing one.
Former Chelsea and Man United player Ray Wilkins told BBC Radio Manchester (here via BBC Sport) last month why he thought Lampard making the move up north made sense.
Wilkins spoke about how it would obviously be a good move for the England international if he wants to stay at the highest level. But also how the goals Lampard would contribute and his overall footballing ability would ensure United get a top player too.
Whether Lampard to United is a possibility depends largely on the futures of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Should they decide to call it a day Sir Alex Ferguson might feel the experience Lampard brings to be a necessary component worth maintaining in those midfield positions.
The caveat for Lampard is that his chances of first-team football would be reduced, with Ferguson well known for rotating his players. If all parties can come to a working understanding here, this could turn into one of the biggest transfer stories of the summer.
Just last month this writer wrote about the need for Ferguson and Manchester United to persevere with David De Gea as their first-choice goalkeeper. Even considering this opinion, and the still healthy chance that the Spaniard will retain that position, the future of Asmir Begovic in relation to Manchester United is something worthy of examination.
Stoke City boss Tony Pulis told local newspaper The Sentinel that as far he is concerned Begovic is not going anywhere. This in spite of Pulis signing England's promising young goalkeeper Jack Butland last month.
Begovic was quoted earlier in the week (here via the Mirror) as saying he expected to leave Stoke in the summer in the wake of Butland's arrival. Pertinently Begovic said he would not move "to a smaller club" and that he knew "some top clubs are interested in me. They are also the only ones who can afford the fee".
Man United are not the only club who fit this description that could possibly be in the market for a goalkeeper. Chelsea pursued Butland and might be interested in Begovic as someone who could seriously compete with Petr Cech. Both Arsenal and Liverpool have had issues with their respective goalkeepers this season and could possibly be interested too.
Whether United should go after Begovic depends on your opinion on De Gea and if he is good enough for the Red Devils. Regardless, this is another one where we have not heard the last of rumors surrounding the Bosnian's future and how it might involve a move to Manchester.