James McCarthy has reportedly emerged as one of Louis van Gaal's "top transfer targets" in the Dutchman's summer of rebuilding at Manchester United.
Sky Sports reports a potential deal that would see one of the Red Devils' most lambasted players move to Everton in exchange:
Sources have confirmed to Sky Sports that United may even try to offer Tom Cleverley in exchange as (Roberto) Martinez is known to be fan of the England midfielder and it appears he could be one of a number of Old Trafford regulars allowed to leave this summer.
Sky also suggests "Everton are keen to open talks with the 23-year-old over a new deal," as United allegedly look to lure one of the Toffees' key players away from Goodison Park for the second successive year.
Marouane Fellaini, who made the switch under David Moyes in 2013, could also be significantly impacted by McCarthy's potential arrival at Old Trafford. The former Wigan star replaced Fellaini on Merseyside and far outshone his predecessor across the 2013-14 campaign. Duncan Wright of the Express believes United may opt to cash-in on their Belgian flop after just one season with the club:
Senior officials in charge at United privately concede they may have bought a dud, and rather than prolonging the agony, they would be willing to cut their losses and sell Fellaini in the interests of United and the player himself.
How much is Marouane Fellaini worth?
Wright indicates a fee of £15 million would be enough to secure Fellaini's services, a huge drop from the £27.5 million Moyes spent on the afro-haired enigma. The Belgian made just 21 appearances across the Premier League and Champions League for United last season, failing to score and providing one assist, per WhoScored.com.
His sloppiness on the ball, poor distribution and lack of confidence defined Moyes' era, as Fellaini's career is now in need of major direction. On the contrary, McCarthy's workhorse-like approach, which is defined on a hard-tackling, tidy passing game, provided the springboard to Everton's fifth-placed finish.
He and Gareth Barry formed a reliable partnership in the middle, allowing Roberto Martinez to build an increasingly attacking team around the sturdy base. McCarthy made 34 appearances in the Premier League, scoring one and assisting three, per WhoScored. Often an under-the-radar type of player, he is essential to maintaining balance in Martinez's side.
While often berated for his consistent lack of form, Tom Cleverley may prove to be vital in this potential deal. Martinez previously suggested the player is treated harshly by many onlookers, and that in the right system, he could excel:
"There are only a few players in this country who have had the sort of education where they look as if they could have been brought up in Holland, Spain or France," said Martinez, reported by Paul Wilson of the Guardian. "Tom is one of them. I just don't understand this campaign (against him), it is not the way to encourage young players."
Martinez previously worked with Cleverley at Wigan. As proven by the signings of McCarthy, Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz, the improving manager favours picking those he has a previous working relationship with. Perhaps he is the man to unlock Cleverley's best form in a less pressure-filled environment.
McCarthy would certainly be a huge loss for Everton. The 23-year-old has the potential to be a future captain at the club, suggesting it will take a decent cash sum to lure him away.
James Ducker of The Times (subscription required) previously linked Martinez with a move for Cleverley, who is valued at around £8 million. United would likely need to offer a double-figure fee on top if an exchange can be agreed for McCarthy, who moved for £13 million last summer.
Improvements are certainly needed at United, who will need to spend lavishly in order to improve the seventh-place finish registered after Moyes' 10 months in charge.