Manchester United may have confirmed their first two signings of the summer with Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw heading to Old Trafford, but the club face a real battle to land targets Mats Hummels and William Carvalho, according to reports.
The Red Devils are eyeing defensive reinforcements and a sense of physicality after struggling to impose themselves throughout the 2013-14 season. Richard Tanner, who covers Manchester-based football matters for the Daily Express, told talkSPORT that Hummels currently leads Louis van Gaal's wanted list.
"Hummels is their number one target but I don't think he wants to come," Tanner said. "He’s been quoted as saying he is happy where he is and wants another year in Germany. Thomas Vermaelen is very much on their radar. He might not be able to get in the Arsenal team but Manchester United fancy him."
Tanner also suggests that Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij, both of whom are currently working with Van Gaal in the Netherlands setup, represent "a possibility" for the incoming boss. Both were previously linked to United by Simon Jones of the Daily Mail, among other sources.
Metro believes United have offered a £20 million "final push" for Hummels' signature after consistently being linked with the German defender. Unfortunately for the English club, Hummels has always appeared fully committed to Borussia Dortmund and previously indicated he wouldn't "waste any thoughts" on leaving the club in April, per Bild and via Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC.
Another target United have consistently been linked with is Carvalho, who could add a dominant force to the side's lightweight midfield. Fresh off the back of Carvalho representing Portugal at the World Cup, Sporting director Augusto Ignacio revealed that any interested parties will need to pay the player's hefty £37 million buyout clause, as revealed on Sporting TV and via Sky Sports.
"It's not like the old days when players left Sporting at any price," Ignacio said. "We are not concerned with William Carvalho because we have alternatives who will want to play as well. The termination clause ensures a great deal for Sporting. I am very pleased with the negotiations."
Is William Carvalho worth £37 million?
United aren't opposed to spending heavily on youngsters—with Shaw likely to cost in excess of £27 million, per Andy Hunter and David Jones of The Guardian—but that kind of fee for Carvalho is certainly testing the club's resolve. Such a transfer would make the 22-year-old powerhouse one of the top 15 most expensive footballers of all time, per The Telegraph.
Carvalho offers a calm assurance on the ball and is versatile enough to slot into defence if needed. United certainly need an all-action type—the kind of player who can burst forward in possession, dominate in the air and shield the back four when under pressure—but Van Gaal will need to spend heavily if Carvalho is to be that man.
The price seems extortionate when you consider United are being linked to Arturo Vidal for "around £35 million," per Gary Jones of the Daily Star. Granted, he is five years older than Carvalho, but the Chilean is currently one of the top all-around midfielders in the world.
United are also linked with Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado, per Metro, an exciting prospect for the club in the eyes of ESPN FC's Chris Atkins:
Cuadrado and Vidal both being linked with #MUFC now. Fair to say they would not be as lethargic in midfield if either arrived.— Christopher Atkins (@ChrisAtkins_) July 2, 2014
United will most likely continue to spend big in an effort to rebuild after last season's seventh-place Premier League finish.
Even so, Van Gaal will need to zone in on a handful of signings who offer immediate quality, potential for the future and value for money. Carvalho perhaps stumbles on the final point, but he represents one of many targets who are likely to be overpriced due to United's obvious need for improvement. Should United wish to sign the player, a lower offer will surely tempt Sporting into cashing in.