Manchester United believe a deal for Real Madrid’s Ángel di María can be sealed after gaining encouragement from developments in recent days and are hopeful of signing the forward for a fee of up to €75m (£60m).
If the 26-year-old does become a United player he could be given the No7 shirt vacated by Antonio Valencia at the start of last season and which has been worn by George Best, David Beckham and Eric Cantona.
United had all but given up hope on landing the Argentinian after he began the summer on new manager Louis van Gaal’s A-list of targets but seemed to be on his way to Paris Saint-Germain.
Yet that transfer to the French capital collapsed as PSG were unable to meet Real’s asking price, thought to have been £50m. With the PSG president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, declaring the fee “too expensive”, United revived their interest in Di María this month, despite the French champions’ desire to sign the Argentinian on a loan deal.
Manchester City were also offered the opportunity to sign the winger, on several occasions, but declined to make a bid.
On Thursday Carlo Ancelotti signalled that the player was trying to force his way out of Real when the coach stated he had turned down a new contract. “Di María asked to go,” said the Italian coach said. “The player has to look for a solution. He’s a Real Madrid player and until 31 August, as I’ve already said, anything can happen.”
United have so far offered only a no comment but are refusing to deny the club’s firm interest in Di María. This signals the club’s hope to complete the deal before the close of the summer transfer window on 1 September.
Di María could be handed the No7 shirt, with United having previously indicated in a tweet on 13 August that any fresh arrivals would be given jerseys already “vacant”. The club tweeted: “Please note: any new acquisitions will be handed shirt numbers that are currently vacant.#mufc.”
Should Di María sign, it would represent United’s highest-profile acquisition since Robin van Persie in August 2012 and a coup for Old Trafford. The club have endured yet another difficult summer window, mirroring a similar experience last year.
In Di María, Van Gaal will be adding one of Europe’s elite performers who was the man of the match in Real’s Champions League triumph in May and who, but for injury, would have been a certain starter in Argentina’s World Cup final against Germany at Brazil 2014.
Van Gaal is determined to persist with the 3-5-2 formation he has used this season and may decide to deploy Di María as a wing-back, which is in line with his regular position as a wide operator, or try to move him inside.
For his proposed system, Van Gaal wants players of pace and the 63-year-old is conscious that Di María possesses an attacking threat that would be a potent force against Premier League defences. Before Real’s Uefa Super Cup meeting with Atlético Madrid in Cardiff this month, Van Gaal described Di María as a winger of the “highest level”.
With United having suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Swansea City in their season opener at Old Trafford Di María’s potential arrival would provide a welcome boost.
Van Gaal is still hopeful of signing at least one more player, and retains an interest in Ajax’s Daley Blind, who can play as a left-sided defender or as a defensive midfielder.
This is an area of the manager’s squad which is particularly weak due to injury and a lack of high-quality personnel. If Blind – or any other midfielder – was to arrive this would throw further doubt on Tom Cleverley’s future at the club.