Manchester United are reportedly on the cusp of landing Louis van Gaal as their manager, per Ian Ladyman of the Mail Online, but whoever is installed at Old Trafford will face the same objective: improve the squad and reinstate Champions League football at the Theatre of Dreams.
With this goal in mind, a plethora of world stars are being linked with a move to the club. Thomas Mueller, Mario Balotelli and Cesc Fabregas are the latest trio to grab attention, as all three have emerged as viable targets, according to the British press.
Here, we detail the latest news on each.
Latest News on Manchester United's Potential Transfer Targets
Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich
It seems Manchester United will be linked with every Bundesliga star by the end of the summer. Names such as Toni Kroos, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels continue to be thrown about, with Muelller the latest name to tick off the list.
Bayern's classy forward is said to be unhappy with his limited role in Pep Guardiola's lineup. Should Van Gaal receive the full-time United post, this discontent could see him lured over to Old Trafford, as reported by John Edwards of the Mail Online:
Louis van Gaal is planning to announce his arrival as Manchester United by pulling off the spectacular signing of Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller.
Informed sources in Germany have revealed that Muller is the name at the top of Val Gaal’s wanted list and that he is the one manager the Germany striker would leave his home club for.
Guardiola spoke about those reported to leave prior to his side's match with Hamburg, suggesting United will need to go some if they are to land Mueller's services, as reported by FIFA representative Alex Stone:
Guardiola on unhappy players: "I'm sure Götze, Martínez & Mueller will play for us next season." via “@MuellerMatze.— Alex Stone (@AlexStone7) May 2, 2014
Van Gaal may have an excellent working relationship with Mueller, having brought him into the first-team while managing Bayern, but it seems unlikely the Bavarian club will sell a local hero who embodies the team's classy, fearless and effective style of play.
Mario Balotelli, AC Milan
One of the more outlandish transfer stories to arrive in recent weeks, Ben Jefferson of The Express believes AC Milan will offer Balotelli to United in exchange for Robin van Persie.
He suggests the Serie A club have "grown tired" of the player's antics and that offering the 23-year-old for United's ageing star "could prove better value" for the Premier League club.
Considering United are well aware of the player's enigmatic attitude, having been on the end of Balotelli's infamous "Why Always Me" celebration during Manchester City's 6-1 hammering of the Red Devils in 2011, a swap deal appears improbable.
United fans are unlikely to welcome a player whose behavioural problems have defined his eras with Inter Milan, City and AC Milan. Interest from Monaco could also see any suggestion of a swap diminished, as Radamel Falcao believes the Ligue 1 side should consider a bid for the Italian forward, per Jefferson's report:
"With an ambitious project like Monaco it is normal that you want major players like Balotelli," said the Colombian star.
Presuming Van Gaal does take over, it's also difficult to see the notoriously hard-nosed Dutchman putting up with Balotelli's antics.
Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
Oh no, not this one again.
Which player do Manchester United need most?
David Moyes' inability to land Fabregas during last summer's transfer market set the precedent for a reign of disappointment. United are said to be back in for the Spanish midfielder and are set to "battle it out" with City over the Blaugrana's "dispensable" player, as reported by Metro.
Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News says a return to Arsenal could also be on the cards for Fabregas. The 26-year-old admitted Arsene Wenger's team remains "in my heart" during an October 2013 interview, saying the Gunners "will always open its doors to me."
Like Mueller, Fabregas is the type of player who could link United's play seamlessly, albeit in deeper positions than the German. His confidence on the ball and measured passes would be welcome in a midfield that has lacked assurance throughout the current campaign.
United may have to offer lofted terms for the player if Arsenal are interested. Fabregas' previous comments suggest he would opt for the club that means something to him over greater cash, indicating United may once again be chasing the unreachable.
Whether Fabregas, Mueller or Balotelli end up at Old Trafford remains to be seen. The new manager will need to quickly install his philosophy into a side that has lacked any real character or distinction this season. Van Gaal, or whoever takes over, must restore the fast-paced attacking style United are known for.
Each of the aforementioned names appear unlikely targets for the coming summer, a dangerous sign for supporters. United need to ensure they target realistic acquisitions instead of wasting time on those who aren't right for the club or simply don't want to come. If the new manager follows in Moyes' stuttering footsteps, plenty of heartache is on the way.