Louis van Gaal has reportedly made AS Roma's Kevin Strootman his top transfer priority for the summer. The Dutch international would immediately fill Manchester United's biggest need on the pitch as soon as he returned from the knee injury that will see him miss the upcoming World Cup.
The Daily Express' Ben Jefferson has learned that injury won't stop Van Gaal from making a £25 million offer for the Dutch midfielder:
The 24-year-old suffered a serious knee injury in March which ruled him out of Holland’s World Cup campaign.
It’s unlikely that he won’t be back in action until around October but new Manchester United boss Van Gaal hasn't been put off and has sanctioned a £25 million bid for the Serie A man.
Roma are anxious to try and keep Strootman who was playing the best football of his career until his injury. He only joined the Italian club from PSV Eindhoven last summer in a transfer worth around £16 million.
But it’s believed he would love to link up with his international manager at Old Trafford and is also close friends with United striker Robin van Persie, likely to become the club’s new skipper.
Strootman was sensational during his first season in the Italian capital, and he was instrumental in the Giallorossi's revival in 2013-14. His transition from the Eredivisie to Serie A was almost seamless, and Strootman quickly asserted himself as one of the most dominant central players in Italy.
Combining great athleticism and solid technique with a healthy nasty streak, Strootman has all the tools of a prototypical box-to-box player. While not as proficient near the box as Juventus' Arturo Vidal, his ability to combine with team-mates makes him just as much of a threat moving forward.
Roma won't be willing to sell arguably their best player just like that, but the club was able to find a player with similar tenacity on the pitch in Belgium's Radja Nainggolan, so a back-up plan would be in place for the Giallorossi.
An injury to his anterior cruciate ligament could be reason for concern, but as reported by The Daily Mail's John Drayton, surgery on his left knee back in March went well.
Strootman won't be available to start the season and will require time to work his knee back to full strength, but with Manchester United failing to qualify for European football next year, the Red Devils wouldn't need to rush the Dutchman back onto the field.
Fellaini in particular was often criticised by fans for his frequent mistakes and inability to use his physicality to boss players around, something he always does well for the Belgian national team.
The reason Fellaini seems to play so much better with the national team is the presence of Axel Witsel, one of the sport's most underrated ball-winners.
Like Strootman, Witsel has the physical tools needed to win the battles in the centre of the pitch, and he is calm and collected once he has the ball at his feet.
Witsel's calm demeanour and his proficiency at cleaning up the mistakes of his team-mates frees up Fellaini to move forward without having to worry about slipping up, because he knows he can afford to make a mistake or two.
The main difference between Witsel and Strootman is that the latter offers more of an attacking threat by being a better passer, but their ability to clean up messes in midfield is roughly the same.
United only have to look at the success neighbours Manchester City have had with Yaya Toure to see the importance of a dominant ball-winning threat in midfield. Strootman might not score goals at the rate the Ivorian does, but he would offer more of a physical presence than any other current Red Devil would.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of a deal for Strootman isn't the injury—it's the fact he only moved to Rome last year. Roma will do anything they can to hold onto their star midfielder, and United will have to overspend in order to get him.
But it would be money well-spent. Strootman is a world-class box-to-box midfielder who would transform United's midfield into one of the most dominant forces of English football, and Van Gaal should make sure the player is on the team's payroll as soon as possible.