Manchester United won't get the chance to sign summer target Samir Handanovic on a free transfer this winter, with the goalkeeper set to renew his stay with Serie A club Inter Milan on a new £7.2 million deal.
The Slovenian stopper was a target for the Red Devils in the summer as a potential replacement for the seemingly outgoing David De Gea.
According to his agent, Federico Pastorello, who revealed United's interest to Calciomercato.com (h/t French publication Le10 Sport, via Metro's Mark Brus): "All I know is that [he] was an alternative to David De Gea in case of departure of the latter. Now [he] is preparing to extend its fight with Inter and he is very happy."
For more detail on the pending new contract, Sport Mediaset (h/t Daily Express reporter Joe Short) have stated United won't get the chance to renew their interest, amid claims Handanovic "will snub a potential move and pen a four-year contract at the San Siro worth £1.8m a season."
Short named Handanovic as one member of a trio of 'keepers United were keen on when they thought De Gea would join La Liga giants Real Madrid: "It was thought Handanovic, alongside Tottenham's Hugo Lloris and Jasper Cillessen of Ajax, were the frontrunners to replace the Spaniard."
Of course, the De Gea deal famously collapsed on the final day of the Spanish transfer window. But apparently Los Blancos haven't given up hope of eventually landing arguably the best young goalkeeper in the game.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo (h/t Short) suggested Los Merengues president Florentino Perez will follow up his "promise" to one day bring Spain's premier stopper to the Santiago Bernanbeu.
If that happens, a goalie the calibre of Handanovic will soon find himself back on the Old Trafford club's radar. He's already kept seven clean sheets in Serie A this season, as noted by ESPNFC.com, helping Inter to second in Italy's top flight, level on points with first-placed Fiorentina.
If the De Gea to Madrid talk resumes in earnest, United will need to have quality potential replacements lined up. Yet the Reds will likely need to look elsewhere than Handanovic.
Marcos Rojo Denies Rift With Manager
One player apparently perfectly content at Old Trafford is Marcos Rojo. The versatile Argentinian defender has even denied claims of a past rift between himself and manager Louis van Gaal.
Manchester Evening News reporter Rob Dawson detailed claims former Sporting Lisbon man Rojo had fallen foul of his manager:
There was speculation in the summer the Argentinian was set for a deadline day move to Monaco. He remained at Old Trafford but didn't make his first start of the season until the 3-2 win at Southampton on September 20.
There were reports of a rift between Rojo and Van Gaal after the defender failed to meet up with the rest of the squad for the final leg of the pre-season because of 'passport issues'.
Shortly after the summer transfer window closed, the Daily Star's Steve Morgan revealed Rojo had rejected the chance to move to Ligue 1 club AS Monaco as part of the deal that saw striker Anthony Martial move to Manchester.
During an interview for United Review, the Reds' official matchday programme (h/t James Tuck of the club's official site), Rojo insisted he has retained the backing of both Van Gaal and skipper Wayne Rooney: "They’ve supported me a lot and I’m grateful to them for that. The manager and captain are always with me and they know the type of player and person that I am, so I thank them because they made a great gesture towards me."
Rojo has even managed to justify that support recently. Ex-United full-back Gary Neville has been impressed with the way Rojo has compensated for the loss of left-back Luke Shaw.
After United's 0-0 draw against City in the Manchester derby, Neville wrote in the Daily Telegraph: "Before the game, I saw United’s full-backs – Valencia and Rojo – as big weaknesses against De Bruyne and Sterling, but I thought De Bruyne was completely finished in the game after 20 minutes because Rojo dealt with him brilliantly."
Whether he's been buoyed by Van Gaal's support or he's just finally settling in England's top flight, Rojo looks a different player to the one who struggled so often in a United shirt last season.
His performances will give Van Gaal a welcome selection headache once Shaw returns. But that's nothing compared to the headache the Reds will experience if De Gea eventually returns to Spain.