David Moyes is confident of luring Luke Shaw away from St Mary's Stadium and is also being linked with at least two other up-and-coming Southampton players.
Shaw is the top name on Moyes’ wanted list for the imminent vacancy at left-back, while the Manchester United manager is also weighing up possible moves for Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin as part of an ambitious multi-million pound summer rebuilding job.
Should Manchester United try to sign Luke Shaw?
Shaw's qualities and maturity have come to the fore across the past two years. His confidence on the ball, ability to dribble beyond opponents and limitless energy have outlined him as one of the most effective full-backs in the Premier League.
He boasts all of the characteristics an ageing Patrice Evra does not. The French defender has lost focus this season, often slowly jogging back into position when opposition wingers are bombing down his side. He heads up the pitch without penetration, opting to slow momentum with passes that aren't followed by an overlapping run.
Evra is one of many players who have underperformed for Moyes. He is part of an ageing generation that needs to be dropped in the summer, a factor perhaps acknowledged by Nemanja Vidic when he agreed a deal to join Inter Milan. Evra can no longer will United to victory with his running down the flanks, something Shaw's freshness allows him to do at St. Mary's.
Moyes' first season in charge has seen him live in the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson, largely due to his inability to significantly alter the squad throughout the summer. His third transfer window must yield huge changes, starting with an emphasis on younger players who can commit for the foreseeable future.
Ferguson's reign was built on the development of individuals—think Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and the Neville brothers—all of whom remained at Old Trafford throughout the majority of his tenure. Although Shaw's qualities make him an obvious prospect, Moyes' ability to land him would also signal United still have the pulling power to oust their rivals.
Both Chelsea and Real Madrid are rumoured to be in for Shaw, per Marca (via Nick Lustig of the Daily Star). United's ability to pluck the youngster from under the nose of other elite teams would certainly provide Moyes' squad with a one-up, especially if Shaw decides against joining the Blues side he supported as a boy.
Although Saints currently owe £27 million in transfer fees, director Hans Hofstetter recently claimed the club don't need to sell their most valuable assets to pay the bill, per Adrian Kajumba of the Daily Star: "The most important point is that we are in a position where we do not need to sell any player Mauricio [Pochettino] wants to keep. We have a very strong squad and we are still in a situation where we are free enough to act quickly if quick action is asked from us."
While it's likely Pochettino will want to keep Shaw, a hefty bid from United would certainly soften the blow if he were to leave.
Moyes needs to begin building his own icons at the Theatre of Dreams. Ferguson's "Class of '92" continue to live on and embody the spirit of a manager who repeatedly led the team to success. Shaw is still developing, but even at this stage, he has the quality to sum up everything United must strive to be.
His fearlessness, ambition and willingness to work hard highlight just why Shaw has a major future ahead of him. If Moyes can convince the player United are a worthwhile cause, the club's latest overhaul will finally be taken seriously.