Manchester United are spending big this summer in a somewhat ‘changing of the guard’ at Old Trafford. They have already spent around £50 million on defender Phil Jones, goalkeeper David De Gea, and winger Ashley Young.
Now midfield veteran Paul Scholes has retired into a coaching role at the club and with the departure of Owen Hargreaves, as well as Darren Gibson possibly on his way out, the focus shifts to the middle of the park as the club attempt to strengthen their central midfield and replace Scholes.
Despite United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson's claims that he will not be pressured in to making big-name signings for the sake of it and would be content enough to begin the defence of their Premier League crown and try to win yet more silverware with his current squad, he will know he needs to bolster his midfield and find the next Scholesy.
Speculation has been mounting on who they may bring in, with the club being linked with moves for Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder, Tottenham Hotspur's Luka Modric, and Arsenal's Samir Nasri to name but a few.
Here are just a handful of players who United may consider.
The perfect replacement for Paul Scholes?
Wesley Sneijder is undoubtedly one of the greatest midfielders in World football, boasting formidable attacking ability and killer passing. He commands a powerful, accurate shot, and can be deadly from set pieces, while his passing can tear a team apart.
He is quick and strong, and can play with both feet. Furthermore, he is highly experienced, having won the treble with Inter in 2010 and represented his country at two World cup tournaments. Sneijder was also voted UEFA midfielder of the season for 2009/2010.
He could be exactly what United need and a perfect replacement for Paul Scholes. Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk certainly thinks so, commenting that Sneijder “would fit right in” at Manchester United.
Such a player won’t come cheaply, however, with the midfielder being valued at around £35 million and would be amongst the highest earners at Old Trafford.
Despite being continually linked with the player, United are yet to officially declare their interest, with Sir Alex Ferguson also distancing himself from speculation of a possible move.
Inter will also want to keep hold of one of their best players; Inter’s director Marco Branca has already stated their star play-maker is not for sale. While it remains to be seen if United will make an offer, there’s no doubt that the Dutchman would be a fantastic addition to the United squad.
Luka could fit right in to the United team
Luka Modric was signed from Dinamo Zagreb for £16.5 million in the summer of 2008 and now plays a pivotal role in the Spurs team as an attacking-midfielder.
He has superb vision and awareness to pick a pass, can play with two feet, and his tricky footwork makes him a defender’s worst nightmare.
It's Modric's versatility that makes him an even more useful player, drifting from one side to the other and sometimes adopting a more defensive role in games: tracking back, showing great tenacity to win the ball and launch the next attack.
Following the reported interest of other clubs, Modric handed in a written transfer request to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, but it was swiftly turned down.
The want-away midfielder desires Champions League football, something Spurs can't offer this season after failing to qualify, finishing fifth in last season's Premier League. Instead, they will compete in the UEFA cup.
If United are to sign Modric, they will face stiff competition from Chelsea, who reportedly had offers of £22 million and £27 million for the player rejected while Harry Redknapp is desperate to hold onto one of Tottenham’s greatest assets as he attempts to build a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League title. Modric and his family are settled in the capital meaning United would have to better any offer put forward by the west London club if the player is to consider moving north to Manchester.
With Chelsea likely to return with an even greater offer for the Croatian, Manchester United will have to move quickly if they are to have a chance of signing the player themselves.
Talented yet frozen out. Could he re-ignite his career at United?
Diego Ribas Da Cunha is a Brazilian attacking midfielder currently at VfL Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga. Since his €15.5 million arrival from Juventus in August 2010, his actions have left him frozen out of the squad and effectively looking for another club.
In a match against Hannover, Diego won a penalty with the team trailing 1-0. He took the responsibility of taking the spot kick away from designated penalty taker Patrick Helmes but his effort hit the bar.
The miss resulted in Wolfsburg losing the match 1-0, and ultimately cost then manager Steve McLaren his job- with the player being fined €100k.
Diego was fined again, this time €510k, when he left the team's hotel after being told he would not start in the crucial relegation game against Hoffenheim.
Previous to Wolfsburg, Diego has played for Santos, Porto, and Werder Bremen, where he became one of Europe's most prolific attackers, notching an impressive record of 38 goals and 28 assists in 84 appearances. He was then signed for €24.5 million by Juventus, where he scored a further five goals in 33 appearances.
Despite his problems at Wolfsburg, the Brazilian is a tremendously talented footballer, showing great skill on the ball, and he knows where the goal is.
With Wolfsburg likely to allow the player to leave for just a fraction of his true value, could he be United’s man?
United have been linked with Nasri
Samir Nasri is an attacking-midfielder and winger playing for Arsenal in the Premier League. He was signed from Marseille in the summer of 2008 for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of £14 million.
Nasri's passing and movement, his reading of the game, his creativity, and his versatility to play in a central position or on the wing makes him a real asset to the team.
He is two-footed and can score goals. He doesn’t tend to track back and help out defensively as much as he could however, something he needs to improve if he is to become the complete midfielder.
The France international's future has been subject of much conjecture now he has entered the final year of his contract. United's name has been associated with making a move for the player, though they would face strong competition from their neighbours from the blue half of the city.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has openly declared his interest in signing the talented Arsenal midfielder: "I hope that this player can arrive before the end of the month," he said.
This has angered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who described Mancini's comments as "disrespectful."
Arsenal are hopeful the player will remain with them, especially if Barcelona finally manage to get their target after a seemingly endless pursuit to bring Arsenal's captain Cesc Fabregas to the Camp Nou.
That said, Arsenal may be tempted to cash in on the player, rather than losing him for free at the end of the season, although Wenger claims he would not be prepared to sell the player to United.
Will the two Manchester clubs enter a bidding war for the Arsenal man's services? He is valued at upwards of £20 million.
United to opt for Ganso?
Paulo Henrique Ganso is an attacking-midfielder playing in Brazil for Santos and is one of Brazil's rising stars. As a youth, he was signed by the club at just 15. After playing for the Brazil under-20's team, he is now a full international, making five appearances for his country so far.
He is a most talented footballer and can orchestrate games with his vision, close-control and accurate passing. He also scores some spectacular goals, and possesses an imposing physical frame.
Ganso is widely expected to make a move to Europe sooner rather than later and has attracted the attention of a number of Europe's elite clubs, with Serie A champions AC Milan most recently being linked to the young Brazilian.
Despite Ganso personally expressing his desire to play for the Italian club, Milan insist they are not interested in bringing him to the San Siro.
However, Ganso may still find himself playing in Milan next season, with Inter reported to be looking at the player. Ganso has also said he would love to play for the Copa Italia holders.
If Manchester United are to join the race to bring Ganso to Europe, they will need to dig deep into their pockets, and hope they can persuade the player to come to England rather than his preferred destination of Italy.
Santos will demand a substantial offer to even consider parting with him. It is reported the player has a release clause in his contract set at around a rather unrealistic €50 million, which doesn't expire until 2015, a potential stumbling block for any club looking to sign him.
Although he is yet to prove himself in Europe and could prove expensive, a player of Ganso's quality and potential would surely be a massive coup were United to sign him.
Would he have been the ideal replacement for Paul Scholes?
Charlie Adam was one of Blackpool’s outstanding players last season; his impressive performances and 12 goals won him a fair few admirers, including Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
After playing some outstanding football, including a league double over Liverpool, the Seasiders were ultimately relegated following a determined display at Old Trafford on the last day of the season.
Adam’s performance in particular caught the eye, scoring a first-half equalizer with a finely taken free-kick. After the game, Sir Alex commented “The first half we were battered, and we couldn't handle Charlie Adam, his corner kicks are worth £10 million.”
Adam could have been the ideal replacement for the retired Paul Scholes in the United midfield with his range of precision passing, and like Scholes he isn’t the greatest tackler. Gareth Bale knows this all too well.
The threat he poses from dead-ball situations makes him even more deadly. He is United’s sort of player, a strong, physical leader who can control the middle of the park.
He grew up supporting United and with the United boss clearly impressed by his fellow Scot, speculation was rife that the club would soon table a bid for him in what seemed would be a dream move for the player.
With other clubs interested in signing Adam, United’s bid never materialized and it was Liverpool who eventually signed the highly coveted midfielder, bringing him to Anfield for a fee believed to be just £9 million.
As talent to price ratios go, its difficult not to feel that United may have missed out.