Only a fortnight after the transfer window closed, Louis van Gaal has set tongues wagging again by admitting that Manchester United need to sign a creative midfielder.
The United boss feels he has been forced to play Wayne Rooney in a deeper role because of a lack of options.
“Signing a creative player should be our priority this summer,” said Van Gaal. “I'm looking for balance and I need it in midfield. Wayne is playing in midfield because there is no one else.”
While that will be disappointing news to the likes of Ander Herrera, United supporters will be encouraged by the prospect of a big-name arrival in time for the start of next season.
But who are the candidates? Here we pick out some of the star names from the continent who could transform the United midfield…
Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund)
It’s been a difficult season for Borussia Dortmund but the diminutive 24-year-old has largely been spared from criticism with supporters feeling the Germany international has lacked support in the centre of the pitch. Gundogan missed last summer’s World Cup through injury but prior to that disappointment had established himself as one of Europe’s most promising playmakers with his efficient use of the ball and technical expertise. With Dortmund set to miss out on Champions League football next season, this could be one player actively seeking a move in the summer.
Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Herrera might have struggled to impress Van Gaal, but if the Dutchman is keen to go back to Spain in search of a solution then the Atletico midfielder would seem a good fit. Koke has emerged as a regular starter in Vicente del Bosque’s national team and is a combative figure with quality on the ball. The 23-year-old ranks behind only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Denis Cheryshev for La Liga assists this season. Although a proud Atleti man, his current club would be unable to match the salary United can offer and that means a switch to Manchester cannot be ruled out.
Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Pogba is the prodigal son for many United fans left frustrated by the way the Frenchman slipped through their fingers after impressing as a teenager. Still only 21, his emergence at Juventus has been as impressive as it was predictable and his six Serie A goals from a deep role only hints at his significance to the Italian champions. Chelsea have proven with Nemanja Matic that there is little sense in being proud when it comes to paying big for the one that got away and if Van Gaal thinks Pogba is the man then the player could be convinced he has unfinished business at United.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
If the United boss wants an experienced option at the heart of his midfield then Schweinsteiger must surely rank near the top of his list. Of course, Van Gaal has worked with the World Cup winner during his time at Bayern and played a key role in completing the 30-year-old’s transformation from flying winger to deep-lying playmaker. Schweinsteiger’s effective use of the ball coupled with an ability to drive forwards when appropriate would make him a good fit if he can prove his fitness. With the player no longer an automatic starter under Pep Guardiola, there will be speculation.
Kevin Strootman (Roma)
Strootman was the man identified by Van Gaal as the fulcrum of his World Cup midfield and deemed so pivotal to the system that the then Netherlands boss even abandoned his plans once the Roma midfielder was ruled out through injury. Naturally, the 25-year-old has been linked with a move to Manchester United ever since. Two assists in his first three starts upon his return was evidence of his class, but a setback against Fiorentina last month means Strootman is injured again and Van Gaal will have to wait to see if the player can prove his fitness over a prolonged period.
Marco Verratti (Paris St Germain)
The 22-year-old is one of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe and would appear to fit Van Gaal’s criteria of creating from deep. Verratti can occupy a holding role and his 91.3 per cent pass completion rate this year is impressive, but that doesn’t prevent him from making things happen further forwards. Only winger Lucas Moura has completed more dribbles for PSG and he also ranks top when it comes to through-balls for the Ligue 1 champions. Arsenal and Barcelona have been linked with a move for the Italy international and it would be a challenge for executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to pull off this deal.
Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
The supposed pursuit of the powerhouse Chile international was one of the sagas of the summer on social media and Vidal’s name will crop up again now that Van Gaal has outlined his intention to enter the market for a midfielder. The 27-year-old’s form has failed to hit the heights this season but he’s still weighed in with six Serie A goals in a team that sits seven points clear at the top of the table. If Juventus are prepared to deal at a sum considerably less than would have been quoted last summer then perhaps United will be tempted after all.
If you are reading this on SkySports.com give your view on the pick of the potential signings in our comments section or vote in our poll