Manchester United's midfield is arguably the squad's weakest area, but fans shouldn't count on Louis van Gaal strengthening the middle with Roma's Kevin Strootman.
The Dutch boss, linked to his international colleague by David Wright of the Express, may be disappointed to hear the Italian club aren't looking to sell their best players. Instead, Rudi Garcia wishes to improve upon the bunch that secured second place during the recently concluded Serie A campaign, reported by Roma Channel and via Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News:
"This group is fantastic. We hope to keep almost all of them and improve the team," said Garcia. "We have already started to build for the future."
Such a comment will have United supporters fearing the worst. The club cannot afford to let a second successive summer pass by without securing their major targets, not after David Moyes failed to land individuals including Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara and Daniele De Rossi during his opening few weeks in charge last year.
Last season's struggles were set out with this failure, something Van Gaal can't afford to replicate. While the Netherlands boss remains focused on taking the Oranje as far as possible at next month's World Cup, there's no denying Strootman is exactly the type of midfielder United need.
He's a natural battler in the centre, someone who'll put his body on the line to aid his team. Strootman's game is remarkably well-rounded; he can tackle, pass and score while assuring control over the centre. United's current midfield lacks this kind of versatility and the confidence to assert themselves against tough opponents, a failure that saw the club plummet to seventh during the 2013-14 season.
Everybody knows Van Gaal needs to rebuild the squad quickly. As such, the new manager will do well to escape being held to ransom when purchasing players throughout the summer. Transfers are unlikely to move quickly for the Red Devils—especially considering their manager is yet to arrive at his Old Trafford office—indicating the summer is set to be another roller-coaster ride.
Van Gaal needs at least two central midfielders, a duo of centre-backs, new full-backs, wingers and perhaps even an additional forward. Strootman has long been on United's radar—first linked to the club in 2012—but the constantly fruitless link will be disheartening for many. Wesley Sneijder all over again.
Garcia's comments come shortly after Toni Kroos' link to United was quashed, per Simon Jones of the Daily Mail. Despite months of speculation, it seems as if the Bayern Munich star will remain at the Allianz Arena. Many onlookers, both inside the Theatre of Dreams and beyond, won't feel the slightest ounce of surprise.
Van Gaal indicated his United team will feature plenty of younger individuals. "You do not only do it with stars, but also with youth players," said the Dutchman, per Andy Hampson of the Press Association, and via the Daily Mail. At 24 years old Strootman represents both types of player well; he is young enough to continue improving but should already be considered a world-class player.
Despite being one of the planet's most recognised sporting brands, United's immediate lack of prospects may undermine the club's willingness to spend. Van Gaal almost needs to land a Strootman or Fabregas to show the world he means business, and that United won't be dictated to in the transfer market.
His ability to do so, much like Moyes before him, will set the tone for next season.