Everton defender Leighton Baines has pledged his long-term future to the club by signing a new contract, ending links with Manchester United.
Everton confirmed the news on their official Twitter feed, which said the deal was for four years:
Roberto Martinez confirms the new deal for Leighton Baines is for four years #EFC— Everton (@Everton) January 27, 2014
As reported by Jamie Jackson in The Guardian, Baines was a target for United after manager David Moyes, who left Everton for Old Trafford in the summer, identified the England international as a player capable of improving the club's defence.
However, at 29 years of age, he is not a viable long-term option considering the sizeable transfer fee that would have been involved.
In Metro, Dave Filmer argues that Baines has made the right decision to stick with Everton:
He’d have had to settle immediately to make sure the World Cup dream didn’t evaporate.
Protecting that dream does not show a lack of ambition, in my eyes. It’s sensible.
And even if the World Cup has not been the deciding factor, maybe the desire to play Champions League football with Everton burns bright.
Or perhaps he’s just happy where he is – and that’s not such a bad thing, is it?
A more realistic target for United is Southampton's Luke Shaw, but they will face serious competition from Manchester City and Chelsea for the player's signature.
Another hurdle to overcome with Shaw is the price tag, with the Saints reportedly keen to hold out for as much as £30 million, as reported by Rob Shepherd in the Daily Mail.
That may lead United to look at other targets, although the signing of Shaw would send a clear message to the Red Devils' rivals after the arrival of Juan Mata from Chelsea broke their transfer record.
A more immediate possibility would be to convince Patrice Evra to continue while a replacement can be found.
At 32 years of age, Evra is coming toward the end of his career, but he has made 21 Premier League appearances this season and has often been a steady performer in the United defence.
With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand's future in doubt at Old Trafford, per Chris Wheeler in the Daily Mail, keeping a senior figure like Evra would be in United's interests, but they must strengthen the position within the next 18 months with an eye on the future.