Manchester United's transfer quest could see the Red Devils turn to Xabi Alonso before deadline day, according to reports on Thursday. Alongside this, the struggling Premier League side has been handed a boost in the race to sign Angel Di Maria, who has confirmed he wishes to leave Real Madrid.
United fans will likely be growing tired of transfer speculation with 11 days to go before the summer window closes. Great investment is needed, as highlighted by Saturday's defeat to Swansea, but the club's lack of marquee signings remains a point of frustration for supporters.
Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express believes United are plotting a "shock bid" for ex-Liverpool midfielder Alonso, a transfer that would potentially act as a short-term solution to Louis van Gaal's problems in the centre. Former United midfielder Paul Scholes believes the Spanish veteran would be a smart signing, as noted in his column for The Independent:
He is not the quickest but then he never was. Neither is Andrea Pirlo but he can play a bit. Alonso has a superb range of passing. He can shoot too. I noticed he signed a contract extension in January but, with Kroos as well as Luka Modric at his club, perhaps now would be the time he would consider leaving.
Which player do Manchester United need to sign most urgently?
Despite Alonso's qualities, it would be odd for United to target him over Sami Khedira, who has confirmed he doesn't wish to sign a new contract at the Bernabeu, as reported by Sky Sports. Khedira is better placed to tighten up United's midfield and is less valued by Carlo Ancelotti, who continues to deploy Alonso in the middle of his central trio.
Khedira is also more prone to bursting forward and has the energy to contribute all over the pitch. At the age of 32, Alonso's legs have already slowed down considerably. He remains a fine passer of the ball and could definitely aid United's progress, but Van Gaal would be signing a temporary solution to a problem that has persisted for years if this unlikely transfer went through.
United appear destined to do some sort of business with Madrid after Di Maria confirmed he is looking to move on, per Sky Sports. Ancelotti recently acknowledged this bombshell, per Nicholas Rigg of ESPN FC, while football writer Jonathan Johnson confirmed potential suitors Paris Saint-Germain aren't any closer to signing the Argentinian:
Ancelotti said Di Maria asked to leave this summer and has rejected a contract renewal. Finding a resolution #realmadrid— Nicholas Rigg (@nicholasrigg) August 21, 2014
L'Equipe: PSG's Angel Di Maria move far from done. Real Madrid hope to keep him for at least 1 more year & PSG not close to selling anyone.— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) August 21, 2014
Sky Sports' Spanish football expert and B/R UK guest columnist Guillem Balague insists United are yet to make an offer for the player:
On di María. As of today, there has been no offer whatsoever for the player by Manchester United. None so far.— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) August 21, 2014
Di Maria has shown himself to be a top-quality player across various positions in recent times. His ability to settle as a central midfielder may galvanise Van Gaal's interest; Di Maria could spring forward with possession at his feet, a trait United currently lack in midfield, but the manager's 3-5-2 preference may need to be altered if the player is signed.
It's been years since United fans could wholeheartedly suggest they have world-class wingers, but Di Maria could also perform excellently on either flank. It would be exciting to see the former Benfica man float between positions with Adnan Januzaj on the opposite side, providing United with a fluid, ambitious and incisive threat.
Van Gaal, Ed Woodward and the United board ultimately have 11 days to dramatically improve their squad. United fans are tipped to protest against the Glazer family if this doesn't happen, as reported by Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail, meaning the run-up to Sept. 1 is vital to the club's prospects this season.
Optimists will be looking for one of the aforementioned Madrid trio at this point of the window, which is so far defined by complete and utter frustration.