Manchester United's chances of landing Southampton's Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana appear to have hit a snag after Saints football director Les Reed confirmed "no club has been given permission to talk to any of our players."
Reed released a forthright statement to establish a concrete understanding of Southampton's position, reported by the Southern Daily Echo. In it, he appeared to deny rumours linking United to a double-swoop for two of Southampton's most important players:
Reports that we are about to close deals on certain players are totally misinformed, misleading and are not true. No club has been given permission to talk to any of our players so reports that some of our players are in the process of negotiating stellar transfer fees or contracts are absolutely misinformed and inaccurate.
[...] No club has been given permission to talk to any of our players and that will remain so.
Reed also confirmed "there have been no enquiries, we have had no bids and we have had no offers" for any personnel, suggesting Southampton fans can breathe a momentary sigh of relief.
Even so, Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail believes United will offer £30 million for Shaw's services and suggest the two clubs are in "advanced talks." Wheeler also says the Red Devils will offer £25 million for Lallana after the classy midfielder got himself into the England team with some magical displays under Mauricio Pochettino.
United's season has been filled with drama, culminating in the sacking of David Moyes on Tuesday, per Jamie Jackson of the Guardian. Jackson reports Moyes was "largely responsible" for putting United ahead of Chelsea in the fight to land Shaw with an offer that would see the 18-year-old become England's highest-paid teenager.
Shaw has made 32 Premier League appearances in a terrific season for the St. Mary's club. His attacking intent from the left-back position is palpable, as Shaw's dribbling technique and willingness to run at the opposition is matched with explosive pace.
He needs to work on retaining the ball and distribution—having completed just 78 percent of his passes this season, per WhoScored.com, but this will come with age. Like Lallana, Shaw's confident performances have also been rewarded with an England cap, suggesting the youngster could compete with Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole for a place in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad.
Lallana looks a certainty to play in Brazil if he remains fit. The creative midfielder has netted nine goals and six assists in 35 appearances, dictating the pace of Southampton's ambitious style with his smart touches and willingness to bring team-mates into play. A clever passer and agile dribbler, Lallana flaunts a technical style that isn't common in English stars.
Reed's stern statement follows on from previous vows made by new Southampton director Hans Hofstetter.
"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," Hofstetter told BBC Radio Solent, via Daniel Jones of the Metro.
Manchester United's current lack of manager makes it extremely difficult to believe bids for Shaw and Lallana are on. The next permanent boss will need to improve the meddling squad with haste, but despite their quality, it is ill-fated to push ahead on targets outlined by Moyes before he left.
The Southampton duo would undoubtedly add a freshness to United's play. With Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt currently coaching at the club, per Mark Ogden of the Telegraph, an investment in British talent could soon be on the agenda.
Southampton remain resolute heading into the end of the season. A pricey United bid would really test the club's resolve, especially if Saints are to continue improving across the next few years.