Fitness Concerns Will Dictate Manchester United Interest in Kevin Strootman

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentSeptember 3, 2014

In this Nov. 19, 2013 image Netherlands' Kevin Strootman lines up prior to the  international friendly soccer match between Netherlands and Colombia at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In a severe blow to Dutch World Cup hopes, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said Monday March 10, 2014, that midfielder Kevin Strootman will miss the tournament after suffering a serious knee injury over the weekend playing for his club AS Roma. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Peter Dejong/Associated Press

The rebuild at Manchester United was always going to take longer than one summer.

Ed Woodward and Louis van Gaal might have spent more than £150 million in the transfer market, but the recovery isn't yet complete.

It's further along than many fans thought it would be at this stage. There was a time not so long ago when most supporters were underwhelmed by United's transfer business. Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao have changed that.

But even after six signings and the financial outlay of a small European country, there are still holes in Van Gaal's squad.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Falcao of Monaco in action during the Emirates Cup match between Valencia and AS Monaco at the Emirates Stadium on August 2, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

There's room in midfield for a ball-winner, or a box-to-box dynamo. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic haven't been properly replaced, either.

Marcos Rojo has come in from Sporting Lisbon. But he's not a commanding centre-half in the mould of Ferdinand, Vidic, Jaap Stam or Steve Bruce.

A midfielder and a defender will stay on the list of targets until January. Possibly even until next summer.

Woodward and Van Gaal had conversations about Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman when the Dutchman first took over at Old Trafford.

NAPLES, ITALY - MARCH 09:  Kevin Strootman of Roma lies injured during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AS Roma at Stadio San Paolo on March 9, 2014 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

But there was a reluctance to make an offer while he was still recovering from the knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.

The 24-year-old hasn't played since rupturing his knee ligaments against Napoli in March. But Roma are hopeful he'll return to the first-team before Christmas.

United played Roma in Denver during their pre-season tour of the United States. And, before the game, Van Gaal told the Manchester Evening News he was prepared to wait for his man.

I never say anything about individual players. It is my vision that we talk about a team and not individual players.

Strootman I can judge, but he is injured for more than six months. We have to wait and see how he comes back.

It is not easy to say how he comes back from injury, but we will wait and see.

Strootman is a favourite of Van Gaal. His absence from the Dutch squad in Brazil this summer prompted a significant tactical change.

He would offer United the physical presence, the athlete, they have missed in midfield. 

It's not since 2008 that they have had a midfield to rival the best in Europe. Strootman would go some way towards remedying that.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

United couldn't turn down the chance to sign Di Maria and Falcao. They are too good for that. 

But it would seem Van Gaal couldn't turn down the chance to sign Strootman, either. Instead of splashing out on Arturo Vidal or Joao Moutinho, he kept his cash in the bank.

Even after a huge summer spend, there is still room in his squad, and in the budget, for a top-class midfielder. Roma are waiting for Strootman to return from injury. United will be watching closely, too.

All information obtained first-hand.