If Manchester United fans had been wearing mood rings in recent months, there'd probably be an ever-changing beam of colours illuminating their fingers. When Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger were added to the squad just over a month ago, sentiment towards chief executive Ed Woodward was overwhelmingly positive as the club geared up for its march back into Europe. That followed the giddy excitement at securing the services of Memphis Depay, with the Dutchman since proving to be at least as good as advertised in a superb start to the season at his new club.
The glowing glut of goodwill was then tempered somewhat by Angel Di Maria’s swift, relatively cut-price exit and Radamel Falcao’s defection to Chelsea, although those departures were at least largely expected.
Sergio Ramos’ snub before re-signing with Real Madrid was another jolt. But Woodward’s standing among Mancunian fans of a red persuasion has now taken a body blow following Chelsea’s unexpected swoop for Barcelona's Pedro. There is still hope for the United chief. With 11 days remaining before the transfer window is bolted down, here are 11 players who could have those mood rings oozing positivity once more...
Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
If Woodward wants the quickest of quick fixes to help fans forget the Pedro fiasco, it would be delivered by securing Bayern's 25-year-old maestro. Boasting 73 goals in 198 games for the German giants, Muller already has World Cup, Champions League and four Bundesliga titles in his possession. It will take a mega bid likely in excess of £60 million to land him, but the Glazers have shown they are prepared to deal in that kind of stratosphere, as evidenced by the £59.7m splashed to secure Di Maria almost 12 months ago. Muller will also likely need to hand in a transfer request as Bayern are reluctant to part company with their Bavarian jet. But the whispers are the player himself favours the move and a mooted £250,000/week package could also be just the temptation he needs to call Manchester home.
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
The Lyon-born striker has been linked with so many moves in recent years, it's a surprise he has only just turned 24. So far he has shown impressive dedication to his hometown club, who he has now represented on 139 occasions since his debut in 2010, scoring 57 goals. That includes a Ligue 1-leading 27 goals in just 33 appearances last season and while his commitment is undeniable – the French striker recently extended his contract to 2019 – surely a move to a bigger club is only a matter of time.
Despite Louis van Gaal’s dogged insistence he has enough strike power at his disposal, the reality is that Wayne Rooney isn’t firing, Javier Hernandez isn’t playing and United aren’t really scoring. Their return from two Premier League games is one goal from Adnan Januzaj and an own goal courtesy of Kyle Walker. Lacazette would improve that situation.
Sadio Mane (Southampton)
Signed for almost £12 million from Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg last September, the unheralded Mane proved a hit at St Mary’s, scoring 10 goals in 32 appearances. That included the game that brought him particular notoriety – the 6-1 annihilation of Aston Villa back in May, when he scored a hat-trick in just 2min 56secs, the fastest in Premier League history. The fleet-footed Senegal international is just 23, so would also represent a sound investment if he was to continue his recent rate of improvement. Having already sold Schneiderlin to United, Saints manager Ronald Koeman would be reluctant to lose another of his prized assets. But, as is so often the case, money might have the final say in the discussion.
Julian Draxler (Schalke)
Another highly sought member of the German national team, Draxler has regularly been linked with a move to Arsenal, while Juventus have also aggressively pursued the young winger. The Italian champions have reportedly tabled a bid in the region of £21m for a man who only turns 22 late next month. Like Muller, Draxler can also call himself a World Cup winner, having come on as a substitute in the 7-1 semi-final demolition of Brazil.
At 6ft 2in, Draxler – who took the 2013/14 Bundesliga Young Player of the Year award and found a place in the German league’s Team of the Year that same season – has the size and speed to terrify defenders.
Alvaro Morata (Juventus)
Sold to Juventus from Real Madrid for £14m in July last year, Morata came back to haunt his former club in the best way possible, scoring in both legs of Juve’s 3-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League semi-finals. He was on the scoresheet again in the final against Barcelona, but couldn’t prevent the Old Lady suffering a 3-1 defeat. There hasn’t been much talk of a move elsewhere for the 22-year-old during the off-season, but the arrivals of fellow attacking players Mario Mandzukic from Atletico Madrid and Paulo Dybala from Palermo has meant he is no guarantee of a start each week.
Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao)
While the attacking options listed previously would add some gloss and glamour to the United list, some defensive reinforcements would also be greatly welcomed by the club’s faithful. Laporte would certainly assist in that regard and is available if a club are willing to part with the €50m it'd take to activate his release clause. After progressing through the ranks at Bilbao, he made his senior debut aged just 18 and quickly established himself in the Lions’ backline. Able to play in central defence or left-back, he possesses good size and strength and has made 83 appearances in the past three seasons. While Woodward was widely reported to be in Spain this week to watch Pedro in the match between Barcelona and Bilbao, perhaps it was the young French defender who was also the focus of his attention?
Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St Petersburg)
More defensive starch could be headed United’s way in the form of Argentine centre-back Garay. Aged 28, the former Real Madrid and Benfica defender has been a professional for a decade, winning a domestic treble in Portugal in the 2013/14 campaign. Atletico Madrid and Peter Lim’s Valencia, as well as Arsenal, are also believed to be interested in Garay’s services. With continuing doubts over Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and the United back four, at the very least Garay would provide some welcome competition. A regular starter in Argentina’s 2014 World Cup campaign, he demonstrated his mettle by converting his attempt in the semi-final penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands.
John Stones (Everton)
Considering Chelsea’s audacious raid to secure Pedro, perhaps Van Gaal could find a little payback by enticing Everton defender Stones to Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho has been wooing the burly 21-year-old for some months, but so far the Toffees have stood firm.
But Everton and Manchester United have been regular business partners when it comes to footballing talent with Phil Neville, Marouane Fellaini, Tom Cleverley and, of course, Wayne Rooney among those moving up or down the M62 in recent years. Currently on a deal believed to be in the region of £30,000/week, a significant pay rise would also be a fait accompli were he to agree to don United colours.
Diego Godin (Ateltico Madrid)
With well over 300 appearances at club level across his 12-year career, and nearing 100 caps for Uruguay, Godin is a veteran, no-fuss defender who would have few troubles settling into a new club. A member of the successful Atletico Madrid side since 2010, he has won a swag of honours in Spanish football, including a La Liga title in the 2013/14 season. It won’t be easy prying him away from Madrid, a city he considers his second home, and from a club that recently offered him a new long-term contract. But having achieved so much in Spain, it might be the perfect time for the 29-year-old to test his wares in English football.
Son Heung-min (Bayer Leverkusen)
The South Korean has proven a raging success in German football, first with Hamburg and currently with Bayer Leverkusen. An attacking winger or forward who is equally adept with both feet, he starred in his country’s march to the 2015 Asian Cup Final, where they lost to Australia in extra time.
English clubs are well aware of the value of adding Asian talent to their playing lists, due to the Premier League’s incredible popularity in the region, yet a move to sign Son would be no gimmick. No.1 overall in FourFourTwo’s inaugural Asia 50 this year, he would add pace and a different dimension to Van Gaal’s attacking options.
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Another saga that has done Woodward, Van Gaal and United few favours has been the ongoing soap opera unfolding around David de Gea. It has been an extraordinary scenario considering how vital the Spaniard was to United's cause last season. Apparently he wanted a move to Real Madrid, in the city of his birth, and to be closer to his girlfriend; both seemingly reasonable requests. Yet some months after that declaration was made, De Gea remains a United player, although not in contention for the matchday squad. Instead, Sergio Romero has started the year donning the gloves. He has been far from exposed, but United fans would surely breathe a sigh of relief if added cover could be found. Enter Lloris. Regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford, Tottenham’s shaky start to the new season could help drive him north.
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