Football transfer rumours: Manchester United to swap Martial for Ivan Rakitic?

Today’s fluff is bold

The gap between transfer windows is, more and more, a repository for many of those big deals that didn’t quite get struck before the late-August witching hour. It means some all-too familiar faces keep the Mill churning at this time of year and one is them is Alex Sandro, the Juventus wing-back, whom Chelsea remain terribly keen on signing in the new year. Juve had the temerity to knock back bid after bid during the summer; they probably won’t make the same grievous error again and good old Premier League brute force looks likely to win out in short-ish order.

Alexis Sánchez has kept the Mill fed and watered for an entire summer, so when no bigger an authority than Dani Alves says “it’s possible” that the Arsenal forward might join Paris Saint-Germain, we thrill in the subsequent column inches while crossing our fingers that it doesn’t actually happen for a good while yet.

Now for a dispatch from Manchester United, where Anthony Martial’s good recent form may not be enough to make him a pawn in their plot to sign Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona. He could be offered up by José Mourinho as particularly flavoursome bait in order that the Croatia playmaker might be freed up to buccaneer up at Old Trafford.

You might recall another time and place where Mourinho was quite willing to get shot of Juan Mata. He doesn’t want to make that mistake twice and instead will reward the midfielder’s rejection of a huge-money move to China – club unspecified, although that minor detail would doubtless have followed – by triggering an extra year on his United contract. Does anyone use the word “triggering” in any context other than this nowadays?

Mourinho himself might be firing shots at fourth officials for some time yet. United’s flying start has caused such approval in the corridors of power that he is in line for a new five-year deal of his own that – in a development he’ll pretend to ignore while at the same time making it entirely clear he’s just pretending – would make him even better paid than Pep Guardiola.

There’ll be no such extended stay at Liverpool for forgotten – and very unfortunate, in anyone’s book – man Danny Ings, who could get his career back up and running at Newcastle this winter. Rafa Benítez also retains an interest in long-time target Dennis Praet, the Sampdoria midfielder and sometime Belgium international.

What hope to Crystal Palace have of avoiding the drop? Perhaps a little more if they go back in for Cenk Tosun, the Besiktas and Turkey striker whom Frank de Boer – remember him? – tried and failed to do a deal for in August. Coincidentally Roy Hodgson has exactly the same target in mind and would be super-keen on getting it wrapped up when the window opens. It may be too late by then – or Tottenham may firm up some tentative interest and, should it be at all possible, darken the clouds hanging over Selhurst Park.