Manchester United Transfer News: Big-Name Stars Tipped for Summer Move

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2014

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal is reportedly going to get serious about fixing his squad's threadbare defence. The latest transfer rumours see Van Gaal locked in battles with FC Barcelona and Arsenal over a pair of prominent centre-backs.

There is also a fresh chance to complete a deal for Angel Di Maria. However, there are plenty of reasons to be suspicious about some of these links.

Here's the latest on United's pursuit of big-name stars this summer, beginning with their renewed hope of signing Di Maria.


Di Maria Still an Option for United

According to Sunday Times reporter Duncan Castles (subscription required), United could still land Angel Di Maria this summer:

Castles has cited PSG's need to sell before wrapping up any deal for the mercurial Argentine winger. He also credits Bundesliga giants FC Bayern Munich with interest.

That latter detail should worry United fans. The club's inability to offer UEFA Champions League participation this season could easily mean missing out on one of the stars of the world game.

However, facing one year in the wilderness doesn't mean United don't have pulling power. The dominant force of the Premier League era still has the name recognition and fiscal resources to tempt any player into at least talking.

The presence of a manager as experienced and decorated as Van Gaal only adds weight to any negotiation. His era has yet to welcome a true marquee signing, although midfield pass master Ander Herrera certainly has that potential.

Di Maria, though, isn't defined by potential. Instead, he's an established, top-tier talent. He can savage defences with pace and trickery from wide areas, as well as creating numerous chances from the middle.

Of course, United don't have a major need for attacking-midfield reinforcements. The presence of Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj ensures quality in that area.

However, a deal for Di Maria is about more than stacking talent on top of talent. It would have awesome symbolic value, as well as ensuring the arrival of a wonderfully gifted player.

Landing Di Maria would be the clearest statement yet that the club intends its stay away from Europe's top table to be a very short one.


Arsenal Won't Sell Thomas Vermaelen to United

Van Gaal's hopes of boosting his defence with the signing of Thomas Vermaelen could be fading. Mirror reporter Steve Stammers has stated that Barcelona will instead welcome the Belgium international. Stammers cites Arsenal's unwillingness to deal with a rival as the chief reason:

Although Manchester United are keen on the 28-year-old Belgium international, Arsenal would prefer him to move to Spain rather than to a Premier League rival.

Vermaelen could stay with the Gunners this term and become a free agent when his contract expires next summer, but is aware that a move to Barcelona is an opportunity that may not arrive again.

Vermaelen's contract status may not give Gunners boss Arsene Wenger the luxury of choosing who he sells to. If it doesn't, it will be a matter of Vermaelen's preference.

This is where the Champions League argument reappears. It's a repetitive gripe but a legitimate reality United fans can't avoid this window.

Of course, Vermaelen is used to the Premier League and may find a role in Van Gaal's 3-5-2 system appealing. Playing in a three-man defence could bring out the best in a player who is quick across the ground and comfortable on the ball but reckless when isolated.


United to Battle Gunners for Mats Hummels

Few United fans would weep if the club missed out on Vermaelen but managed to sign Mats Hummels. That's the rather outlandish rumour proposed by Mirror reporter Dave Kidd.

He has stated that while United have taken steps to sign Hummels, those efforts will be challenged by Arsenal:

United boss Louis van Gaal has been making all the running for Borussia Dortmund defender Hummels and, despite insistences from his club that he is going nowhere, there is a belief that the player may be available for £30million.

And it is understood that the Londoners will not allow the Old Trafford giants' interest in the 25-year-old to go unchallenged.

Despite interest from the Gunners, Daily Mail writer Rob Shepherd has reported that United will sign Hummels after an increased bid:

Manchester United will this week attempt to complete the signing of German defender Mats Hummels.

But United will have to up their original offer of £17m to nearly £25m if they are to force German club Borussia Dortmund to sell.

However, the confidence expressed in both reports doesn't mask the doubts surrounding any move for Hummels.

For instance, it's difficult to believe Arsenal are rivalling the Red Devils for the Germany international's signature. Boss Arsene Wenger is likely to be very happy with his current centre-back pairing, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

That doesn't necessarily invalidate United's mooted interest, but Dortmund's unwillingness to sell probably does.

Germany based journalist Jan Aage Fjortoft is the latest to offer evidence of Dortmund's commitment to keeping Hummels:

Going after a quality centre-back makes a lot of sense for United. The club's options are stretched, with brittle pairing Phil Jones and Chris Smalling joining uninspiring veteran Johnny Evans.

However, any move for Hummels still seems like pie-in-the-sky stuff.

Van Gaal still has time to make his mark in this transfer window. He can opt for the steady approach of building a deeper squad that will provide the platform for sustained success.

Alternatively, the Dutchman could go for a headline-grabbing signing sure to put United's rivals on alert. The new Red Devils chief may even grant the wish of many fans and do both.


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