Manchester United Transfer News: Mega-Money Deals Eyed by Louis Van Gaal

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 16:  Manchester United Manager Louis van Gaal speaks with Assistant Ryan Giggs (L) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on August 16, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Beginning his Manchester United tenure with a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea City is likely to spur new Red Devils boss Louis Van Gaal into action regarding transfers.

The Dutchman knows he needs players and has apparently identified the areas in need of most work:

The area most obviously in need of restoration is defence. The days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic being miserly at the heart of a stingy back line already seem like a lifetime ago.

Fortunately, Van Gaal has reportedly lined up two new recruits to help fix the woes at the back:


Mehdi Benatia Expected to Sign

The first new arrival is expected to be AS Roma centre-back Mehid Benatia. Sky Sports News presenter Jim White set expectations high for this deal with the following tweet:

A later report from Ben Green of 101 Great Goals detailed apparent further confirmation from Sky Sports:

And, it looks like LVG is going to act quickly to shore up his backline ahead of Manchester United’s second Premier League match against Sunderland next Sunday.

Benatia was one of the stand out defenders in Serie A last season and is expected to cost at least 30 million pounds.

The fee quoted by Green could be in reference to reports out of Italy of a United bid. Matteo Torre of (in Italian) has suggested United have already bid €38 million for the Moroccan international.

That's a steep price to pay, but given the state of United's defence, it's probably worth taking the risk. With Ferdinand, Vidic and Patrice Evra no longer at Old Trafford, the Red Devils are relying on faltering young players in key roles at the back.

The jury is still out on whether centre-back Chris Smalling will ever make the grade with the 13-time Premier League champions. Meanwhile, Phil Jones has never had a settled run of games in defence, partly because he can't stay healthy.

Van Gaal knows he needs a talisman at the heart of a new-look defence. Benatia could be the answer. He is certainly quick across the ground and a willing and precise tackler.

Interestingly, Green noted how he can play in both two and three-man defensive lines. That's significant for Van Gaal, who continues to tinker with different tactical structures.

It seems the defeat to Swansea isn't enough to make the Dutch strategist abandon the idea of playing three at the back. Manchester Evening News reporter Rob Dawson has reported that Van Gaal is insistent his team can use a variety of formations to win, including 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 variants:

I think that we can do it with both systems. You have seen the first half that we were not playing very well and we were behind.

That is why I changed the system – the system Manchester United have always played – then I changed it again.

I do everything to win. To my players, I said it in the dressing room, I cannot say you did not give your utmost. Unbelievable what a fantastic mentality they have shown.

Perhaps Benatia's mooted impending arrival will be the key to true tactical flexibility at the back.


Marcos Rojo Is a Target

Daily Mail writer Rob Shepherd believes Benatia won't be the only new defender to pull on a United shirt in the near future. He has identified Sporting Lisbon player Marcos Rojo as a prime target:

Manchester United could hold fresh talks with Sporting Lisbon on Monday as they seek to sign Marcos Rojo.

Last week United bid £15m for Argentina defender Rojo and their need to strengthen at the back was made clear as Louis van Gaal lost his first game in charge 2-1 at home to Swansea.

However, Shepherd has also insisted that any potential deal for the 24-year-old Argentine will be a complex one. That's due to third-party ownership of the player:

But the deal is complicated because of the tangled web of how much money Sporting will get out of his sale because 75 per cent of the Rojo’s ‘economic rights’ are owned by the controversial sports investment management company Doyen Sports.

Therefore, Lisbon want an inflated £24m for Rojo to make sure they benefit financially by selling.

Whether United should reach a compromise or not is uncertain. In one respect, Rojo is perfect for a role as wing-back in Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation. He's got plenty of pace and energy and isn't shy about raiding the flank.

Rojo's potential arrival at Old Trafford will be difficult to ensure.
Rojo's potential arrival at Old Trafford will be difficult to ensure.Julian Finney/Getty Images

However, he predominantly plays on the left side. That's a position that's surely going to eventually be the purview of expensive English youngster Luke Shaw, once he's recovered from a hamstring injury.

Yet one thing in Rojo's favour is his versatility. He can also play at centre-back, something that will be a massive boost if Van Gaal really does intend to stick with a three-man defence.

There's a lot to recommend Rojo, but trying to negotiate such a complicated transfer is likely to take time United don't have. The window shuts on September 1, so expediency is becoming a more significant factor.


Real Madrid Ready to Authorise Angel Di Maria Sale

According to Catalan newspaper Sport (h/t Sport Witness), Real Madrid are ready to sanction the sale of Di Maria and have even let Van Gaal speak with the player:

Spanish newspaper Sport report on Saturday that Real Madrid have authorised Manchester United to start transfer talks with Di Maria and it's claimed that Louis van Gaal has spoken to the player to convince him a move to Old Trafford would be good for him.

PSG have pulled out of the race because of their battles with FFP and unless the French club can sell someone for a big fee then that looks like remaining the same.

Landing Di Maria is the kind of blockbuster coup the Van Gaal era needs. It would be a not at all subtle reminder of United's position as a club still attractive to world-class stars.

That's been in some doubt since last season's seventh-placed finish left Van Gaal unable to offer the lure of UEFA Champions League football. But convincing Di Maria to assist his rebuilding job would provide a lift for everyone associated with the club.

Most important, it would earn an average-looking squad a true marquee talent. Di Maria played a key role in Los Blancos capturing both the Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies last season.

He possesses devastating pace from wide areas, but he is also technically proficient enough to be a menace from central positions. The 26-year-old could be the game-changing flair player United traditionally made room for during the Sir Alex Ferguson era, with the likes of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo the prime examples.

If Paris Saint-Germain are working on deals to offload some expensive stars, Van Gaal must capitalise on the delay and wrap up a quick deal for Di Maria.