Manchester United boss David Moyes reportedly sent scouts to observe Diego Costa and Ander Herrera during the recent round of La Liga matches.
The Red Devils boss—who watched on as his side suffered their fifth home defeat of the season during the FA Cup tie against Swansea—is said to be hunting La Liga influence as he desperately tries to improve his troubled squad, per Dominic King of the Daily Mail:
He has been searching Europe for a new left back, midfielder and a striker.
The wheels had been set in motion before that stark declaration, though, as United’s chief scout Robbie Cooke watched the highly-rated Costa play all 90 minutes of Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win over Malaga on Saturday afternoon.
Cooke was one of a number of backroom staff who followed Moyes to Old Trafford from Everton and his mission took him from Spain’s south coast to San Sebastian in the north, where he watched Athletic Bilbao’s Herrera play in the 2-0 defeat by Real Sociedad.
United fans will take both links with a pinch of caution, especially after you consider Moyes' failed transfer exploits of the summer.
The Scottish boss, who took over from Sir Alex Ferguson at the start of the season, missed out on targets such as Cesc Fabregas, Daniele De Rossi and Sami Khedira when the market last opened, reported by ESPN FC.
Herrera was also amongst the players who got away—albeit under strange circumstances, detailed by David McDonnell of the Mirror—and has recently suggested he wishes to stay at Athletic Bilbao, per Nick Lustig of the Daily Star.
Although an adept midfielder, Herrera's potential move is not the kind of transfer that will fill United supporters with glee, nor will it force the Premier League champions' title rivals to quake in their boots. Not like, say, the signing of Costa.
The Brazilian-born striker has netted 23 goals in 21 appearances across La Liga and the Champions League this campaign, per WhoScored.com, helping Atletico to maintain pace with Barcelona in the domestic division and go unbeaten across Europe.
His form has softened the blow of losing Radamel Falcao and given Diego Simeone's side a sense of lethality in most matches. Costa may often walk a disciplinary tightrope, but he is the type of individual who can make an impact at any club he plays for.
United have also been linked with Atletico midfielder Koke—who scored the winner during Cooke's reported visit—although Sky Sports reports both he and Costa will remain in the Spanish capital:
Atletico Madrid insist that star names Diego Costa and Koke will not be departing for England this month. http://t.co/oqcVOsPPbn— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) January 6, 2014
January is traditionally a difficult time to receive value for money as transfer sums are often lofted during the season. Arsenal and Chelsea are also linked with a move for Costa, per James Dickenson of the Express, suggesting his transfer sum may be extortionate.
Which player do Manchester United need most to turn their season around?
For Moyes, this is exactly the type of signing that could kick-start his tenure as the United boss. The struggling club certainly need a star acquisition to show they are still contenders across the board.
Javier Hernandez was recently linked with a move to Atletico, per the Daily Mail, and could offer Moyes a route of keeping the transfer fee down if any player is to exchange the Vicente Calderon for Old Trafford.
Right now, though, it's fair to say United fans can expect the worst whenever a world-renowned name is linked with the club.