Following the team's 2-0 loss at the hands of Everton on Sunday, Manchester United have officially been eliminated from the race for the final UEFA Champions League ticket, as the 2013-14 Premier League season is drawing ever closer to a disastrous end for the defending champions.
New manager David Moyes has been blamed for many of the team's shortcomings this season, but a productive summer transfer window could turn things around for the Red Devils in a hurry. Unsurprisingly, the rumour mills are already working overtime connecting several top players to the club.
Let's look at a few of the players being mentioned as potential transfer targets for United and one Mancunian who could be on his way out this summer.
Richard Buxton provided a statement from Moyes discussing Welbeck's current status within the club:
Moyes on Welbeck transfer request story "I can only tell you Danny's really important to me & really important to Manchester United" #MUFC— Richard Buxton (@Richard_Buxton_) April 20, 2014
Catalan giants Barcelona are in turmoil, with the real possibility of an extended transfer ban, as explained by the BBC's John Watson, and rumours of a potential split between the club and their most valuable asset, Lionel Messi, as Manchester City could be planning a move for the Argentinian, per The Mirror's Alex Richards.
Elimination from the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey has only added to the situation, and now another key contributor could be leaving the club very soon. According to The Daily Star's Paul Hetherington, Spanish international is unhappy with the squad and could be on his way out this summer.
A lack of playing time because of Barca's wealth of players on the wing has led to the player's agent, Francois Gallardo, saying his client could be on the move this summer, whether or not it would be the right step in his career:
"Pedro is very angry this season. The player is in a difficult situation and may be sold, although that could be a bad move for Pedro."
Should United chase Pedro?
The Red Devils are one of the clubs mentioned as a potential destination for the disgruntled winger, whose contract has a buyout clause of £125 million, far exceeding the player's actual value, per The Daily Star.
Pedro has often been overshadowed by the likes of Messi and Neymar, but his talent is undeniable. The prototypical winger, he has 15 goals and eight assists in 39 total appearances, per WhoScored.com. With an excellent blend of athletic ability and passing skills, Pedro is deserving of more minutes than Barcelona will ever be able to give him.
The biggest concern regarding a potential move would be the player's fit in United's 4-2-3-1, with Adnan Januzaj already locking up one wing and Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney to be left out of the midfield selection in favour of the Spanish international.
Januzaj's potential is simply too great to warrant a £25 million move for a player occupying much of the same space, and while Pedro would undoubtedly find his way into the starting lineup of nearly every team in world football, the Red Devils might be one of the lone exceptions.
Another Barcelona player being linked to United (and not for the first time) is Fabregas, who was heavily courted by the club last season and has now reportedly been told by club officials the team will listen to offers for the central midfielder, per Metro's Jamie Sanderson.
Sanderson claims several reports in the Spanish press have stated Barcelona are planning to clear house this summer, and that would include moving the former Arsenal man:
According to various reports in Spain, Fabregas has been told that he will be part of a squad clear out this summer – and if a suitable offer arrives he can leave.
Fabregas has failed to impress since re-joining boyhood club Barca, having found himself playing out of position on many occasions.
United are thought to value the Spain star at about £25 million and could now make a new bid at the end of the season, in the hope he can fill their creative midfield void.
Fabregas' time in the Catalan capital hasn't been a complete disaster, as the player has been useful filling in as a false nine, and with the careers of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta slowly coming to an end, the Blaugrana will have a need for creative players in the centre of the pitch.
Like Pedro, Fabregas could have a difficult time fitting into United's midfield, as he seemingly wouldn't offer much of an upgrade over Mata and Rooney and lacks the physicality to play in support of either player.
He might no longer be the stud midfielder he was at Arsenal, but Fabregas still holds tremendous value and could yet reinvent himself if given a good run of games in his natural position in the centre of midfield. Clubs like Internazionale and Napoli would seem like more natural fits for the Spaniards, and a move to Italy would make more sense.
The Daily Star's Paul Hetherington makes a second appearance, as he claims Arsenal could be lining up a bid for one of the Red Devils' centre-backs in Smalling.
On some level, this rumour makes sense. Just a few weeks ago, Moyes commented on the player's social habits, as shared here by BBC's Red Wednesday:
Manchester United manager David Moyes says Chris Smalling has got to understand the right and wrong times to go out socialising #mufc— BBC Red Wednesday (@BBCRedWednesday) April 4, 2014
Smalling and Moyes haven't always had the best of relationships, and with reports the club are looking at bringing in several central defenders, as shared by Exclusive EPL News, it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear teams are viewing a player like Smalling as an available transfer target.
But the Red Devils will be losing Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer, two players who've been with the club for a long time and whose contributions won't be easy to replace. Some continuity is needed, and Smalling will be a part of that.
Does the club need to fix the defensive line?
Smalling has talent, and while he'll most likely never be a world-class defender, you don't just toss a player to the side like that.
The reported fee of £13 million also seems to be over the top, and while United may very well value their centre-back at such a price, it would be hard to believe Arsenal would actually pay such an amount for a player who wouldn't even be the team's best defender—that would still be Laurent Koscielny, by a clear mile.
This tweet from an Arsenal fan is just one example of the kind of reactions Gooners had to the report:
If we sign Smalling, I'm going to report Arsenal to the police.— Tom Gordon (@GoonerGordo) April 19, 2014
United fans don't want the player to be sold, Arsenal fans don't want the player to be part of their club. It's pretty safe to say this move would be a long shot.