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There hasn't been a more important summer for Manchester United in a long time.
Sir Alex Ferguson has retired and new manager David Moyes will need to make his mark quickly.
Big-spenders Chelsea and Manchester City will dump millions to improve, Arsenal will have more money to spend than usual this summer and Tottenham need to improve not just to reach the Champions League, but to convince superstar Gareth Bale to remain with Spurs.
In other words, the Red Devils can't simply rest on their laurels this summer, and for that reason, you should expect to hear them linked with most of the big names on the market. Let's break down a few big names that have been linked to them this week.
Could Manchester United look to bolster their midfield with young Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara?
New Manchester United boss David Moyes has launched a £15 million bid to sign Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara.
Moyes has put chief scout Jim Lawlor on the case to set up a deal for Spain Under-21 skipper Alcantara, who is currently on duty at the age-group European Championship in Israel.
Midfielder Alcantara is available as Barca are willing to cash in for big money, and he is growing fed up at a lack of regular game-time.
Alcantara would certainly add a creative flair to the midfield and bring a very technically sound game to United. He would certainly have to be paired with a more defensive option centrally such as Michael Carrick (or a different United summer addition), however, as he is not the most defensively-minded midfielder.
Still, for a team whose biggest weakness came in the midfield, Alcantara would make plenty of sense.
Here's an interesting one—according to David Anderson of the Mirror, Borussia Dortmund are willing to sell Robert Lewandowski this summer, just not to league rival Bayern Munich. And that means Manchester United could snag the dangerous striker:
Manchester United can have Robert Lewandowski for £25.5 million after his club Borussia Dortmund blocked the striker's move to German rivals Bayern Munich.
Dortmund are adamant Poland international Lewandowski will NOT be joining Bayern, who they finished as runners-up to in last season's German league and European Cup Final, this summer.
And that has opened the door for Premier League champions United to launch a bid, with Dortmund not standing in the way of a move to England.
Outgoing United boss Sir Alex Ferguson tracked the Polish hitman last summer and considered signing him before he opted for Robin van Persie.
The question is, with needs in the midfield and at left back and plenty of options at forward, is spending £25.5 million on Lewandowski the best use of United's cash?
For one, Robin van Persie is firmly entrenched as the team's striker, while Wayne Rooney is tentatively the team's second striker. And then there is Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck waiting on the bench.
Even if Rooney departs this summer, would United pair Van Persie and Lewandowski at striker? Would they go to a pure two-striker formation, or would one of the two players drop off into the role previously occupied by Rooney?
While both players are talented enough to play off the other, I wonder if their skill sets are similar enough that the pairing would be a bit redundant. Lewandowski is a stud, no doubt about it, but I'm not sure he's really needed at United at the moment.
Another day, another Cesc-Fabregas-to-Manchester-United rumour. Even when the player publicly announces his intentions to remain at Barcelona, the Red Devils maintain an interest in obtaining him, according to David Kent of the Daily Mail:
The Catalonia native has not enjoyed the happiest of times since his move from North London in 2011, struggling to hold down a regular place in the starting line-up and occasionally being booed by sections of the crowd.
Sportsmail understands Fabregas has expressed an interest in joining the Barclays Premier League champions and United feel they can do the deal.
I don't think Fabregas is going anywhere. In his report, Kent cites him saying he wants to stay, after all. But hey, you can't blame United for continuously knocking on his door—Fabregas is a world-class talent and would make the Red Devils very, very scary.
Chelsea has been one of the clubs rumoured to have interest in Rooney should the United star depart Old Trafford this summer. New manager Jose Mourinho did little to dispel any notions of that interest at his press conference on Monday.
"I like [Rooney]," Mourinho said. "He is at a fantastic age. He has maturity, big experience and is still young. It's up to him and what he wants, what makes him happy."
Mourinho has insisted there is no need for money to motivate Rooney and has called on him to make the right move for his career.
"He's a little bit like me," Mourinho added. "He doesn't need one more pound in his contract and one more cup won't make a difference. Be happy. Where is he happy? Where will he find more happiness to have ambition and drive him?"
United would be crazy to let Rooney go to Chelsea, seeing as the Blues are sure to be one of the primary obstacles to the Red Devils repeating as Premier League champions next season.
But it's hard to imagine a better fit for Rooney than Chelsea. He would get paid handsomely, be surrounded by talented players, remain in England and be coached by a manager who clearly both understands and respects his mentality as a player.
Plus, he would be Chelsea's primary forward, meaning he wouldn't be dropped nearly as far back the pitch as he was later in the season for United.
The Red Devils would be wise to keep Rooney and Mourinho far, far apart. Rooney's happiness in that case could result in Manchester United's gloom.