Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has identified long-term Old Trafford target Cesc Fabregas as one of his first signings. United, who failed with a number of bids for the Barcelona and Spain midfielder last summer, are understood to be preparing a £45 million bid for the player. Fabregas made the provisional 30-man Spain World Cup squad recently announced by coach Vicente del Bosque, and has been earmarked to play in a “false striker” due to Spain’s preference for playing more attacking midfielders than out-and-out strikers.
Although Barça rejected a series of bids from former United boss David Moyes, it is understood the player is now becoming increasingly unsettled in Catalonia after a turbulent season at the club. Off-field scandals surrounding the club and its players combined with the fact Fabregas has failed to nail down a regular starting spot, has meant Fabregas has had to re-assess. Furthermore, the fact former Barça boss van Gaal has requested United go back in for the Spain international midfielder may help the player make up his mind.
One stumbling block that could thwart United is the the fact Fabregas’ former club Arsenal get first refusal on the player should he decide to leave the Camp Nou. The Gunners have been thrifty in the transfer market over the years despite breaking the club record to sign £42.4 million attacker Mesut Özil from Real Madrid last season. However, manager Arsène Wenger knows he must build on the success of winning the FA Cup last weekend – their first piece of silverware since 2005 – and so the pressure will be on him to spend big in the summer.
For van Gaal, Fabregas would be just the start of a massive rebuilding process at United. The Dutchman said in an interview on Dutch television last night that he has already told United’s American bosses, Malcolm Glazer and sons, who he wants to buy and who can leave the club. It is understood Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels plus Bayern Munich attackers Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben are just three of the other players van Gaal is keen to sign. Southampton left-back Luke Shaw is reportedly on the brink of joining United for £27 million with the deal expected to be completed before he appears for England at the Brazil World Cup.
With a wealth of striking options at his disposal, such as Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández, midfield and defense will be main areas van Gaal will be looking to strengthen. Spain’s Fabregas would be a welcome addition to the United squad due to his versatility and Premier League experience. However, should Fabregas join then it would almost certainly spell the end for Belgium World Cup midfielder Marouane Fellaini who endured a miserable first season at Old Trafford following his big money switch from Everton last summer. Question marks will also be raised concerning the future of Japanese bit-part player Shinji Kagawa, although a number of reports claim van Gaal is a fan of the player. Yet with some £150 million burning a hole in his pocket, van Gaal will want to start strengthening before he sells and going back in Fabregas appears to be a priority.
World Cup Preview is a series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd