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Tuesday 14 August 2018

United hunt for defender drags on as transfer deadline looms

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho

Manchester United's hunt for the centre-back Jose Mourinho craves continues as the transfer deadline edges closer.

Last season's Premier League runners-up have stuttered in the market this summer, having so far only signed Brazil midfielder Fred, promising full-back Diogo Dalot and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant.

Mourinho would ideally like two more signings before tomorrow's deadline and spoke of his confidence that he would get at least one through the door, warning that failure to improve the squad would make this a "difficult season".

United are keen to buy a centre-back and it's understood they are interested in Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng.

Links to World Cup star Harry Maguire persist, but Leicester's reluctance to sell is clear with the deadline looming large.

It's also believed that the Foxes are unwilling to let their reigning player of the year depart and will stand firm in the face of any late United bid.

Toby Alderweireld is another defender United are interested in, but it is understood that Tottenham have yet to receive a bid as a deal remains a way off.

Mourinho's side have tracked, among others, the likes of Jose Gimenez, Milan Skriniar and Kalidou Koulibaly in a summer that has seen regular links to Yerry Mina.

The latter, so impressive for Colombia in Russia, is also reported to have been part of a deal offered by Barcelona for World Cup winner Paul Pogba.

Towering

Barca are said to have seen a bid involving towering defender Mina, midfielder Andre Gomes and around £45million rejected for a player that has had his ups and downs with Mourinho.

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is naturally understood to be unwilling to sell club-record signing Pogba - a stance backed by former defender Rio Ferdinand, just as a move for Alderweireld would be.

Referencing reports that Pogba's agent Mino Raiola is looking at Barcelona as a possible new home for his player, Ferdinand said: "Don't you dare allow this ED... #MUFC is Pogba's home!! Silence these rumours ASAP & get @AlderweireldTob through the door."

Mourinho has already predicted a "difficult season" if United do not do more business, so losing a World Cup-winning midfielder would only add to that.

As a result, Ferdinand - who made over 450 appearance for United - wants Pogba (right) to stay and Alderweireld to come in.

United start their Premier League campaign on Friday at Leicester and, speaking on Sunday, Mourinho said: "My CEO knows what I want and I still have a few days to wait and see what happens.

"The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams. Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody."

As well as Pogba, the United hierarchy are also understood to be keen to keep unsettled forward Anthony Martial, despite well-documented tension between him and Mourinho.

The Portuguese is open to selling a player that he criticised for not returning to United's pre-season tour of America after the birth of his second child. Martial was omitted from the squad for Sunday's friendly loss at Bayern Munich.

Daley Blind and Sam Johnstone, to Ajax and West Brom respectively, are so far United's only summer sales, but talk is rife about a defensive departure given their attempts to sign a centre-back.

Marcos Rojo has been widely linked with a move away from Old Trafford, despite signing a new and improved deal until at least 2021 just a matter of months ago.

It's understood that the Argentina international is reluctant to leave as he continues to work on his fitness, with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly the other centre-back options at United.

Injuries to summer signing Dalot and fellow right-back option Antonio Valencia could delay Matteo Darmian's return to Italy, while Timothy Fosu-Mensah has been strongly linked with a season-long move to Hertha Berlin.

Exits

A number of United's U-23 squad could make temporary exits, with European leagues remaining open for business and English Football League clubs allowed to make loan signings until the end of the month.

Axel Tuanzebe has rejoined Aston Villa on a season-long loan, following Joel Pereira, Matty Willock, Dean Henderson and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson in making temporary exits from United.

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