David Moyes intends to mount a desperate attempt to kick-start Manchester United’s faltering season in next month’s transfer window after revealing he has huge funds available.
The champions go into today’s game at Aston Villa 13 points behind the leaders Arsenal with many having written off their title challenge and even doubting whether they can qualify for a Champions’ League place. But the Manchester United manager insisted they are prepared to invest heavily in the team and also revealed that they were “very, close to a major, major signing”, believed to be Gareth Bale, who eventually went to Real Madrid for £86m last summer.
The funds earmarked for Bale will again be available next month, although the United manager conceded that it is far more problematic landing a marquee signing midway through the season and that he may have to wait until the summer.
Nevertheless, the injury to Robin van Persie, that keeps the striker out for United’s next eight games, will concentrate minds. Moyes also indicated there is likely to be a substantial clear-out of players he inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson.
“There is definitely money for a big deal, 100 per cent,” said Moyes. “We were very close to a major, major signing in the summer. It is easy to say that we didn’t do it but we were really close and the club has shown what it is worth. They have got the money and the club will spend it. There is no question of that.
“The bigger picture is that I want players, not just for the next six months [but] for the next six or seven years. Could we get it all done in January? I am not saying that’s the answer but I’d like to see what I can do. I want to bring them in now or as soon as I can but a lot of them may be in clubs that could be in the Champions’ League or in a good position in the League and don’t want to sell.”
On Wednesday, Moyes watched Atletico Madrid’s 21-year-old midfielder Koke impress against Porto and he has also been linked with a move for Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, whose negotiations for a contract extension beyond 2015 have stalled.
Moyes and United’s new chief executive, Ed Woodward, were heavily criticised in the summer for only landing Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, who has struggled to fit into the champions’ midfield and who looked overpriced at £28m. That both Moyes and Woodward were new to Old Trafford was unquestionably a factor in last summer’s transfer window. They also inherited a club that under Ferguson was no longer one of European football’s heavy spenders.
United’s record transfer fee remains the £30.75m they paid Tottenham for Dimitar Berbatov in 2008. It is a figure Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have all comfortably surpassed.
Ferguson was always wary of the January transfer window and rarely used it, arguing that any credible target was likely to be cup-tied for the Champions’ League and would be overpriced.
His only significant foray into the January window came with the signings of Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic in 2006, and that was when United had just been knocked out of the Champions’ League group stage.
Moyes has, however, used the January window with considerable success at Everton, not least when bringing in Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar to energise his penultimate season at Goodison Park.
Moyes has been in office at Manchester United for five, often tempestuous, months and he has made up his mind about several players who have contributed to a miserable defence of their title.
“We are getting to a situation where there are a few, who if we got the right offer, we would let go,” he said. “I don’t know if we would loan anyone – the number of games I would hope we would play between now and the end of the season means we wouldn’t do loans. But, if the right offer were there, we would look at it.”
Four targets who could light up Old Trafford
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Not quite as improbable as it sounds. Iniesta’s contract expires in 2015 and negotiations on a new deal have stalled. David Moyes has castigated his midfield for their inability to pass and there are none better at that than the great Catalan.
Koke (Atletico Madrid)
One of the reasons Moyes was at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday would have been to examine the 21-year-old product of Atletico’s youth system, who has blossomed under the management of Diego Simeone. Against Porto he played as a holding midfielder.
Remy Cabella (Montpellier)
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder averages a goal every four games for Montpellier and unlike the vast majority of players who are linked with United he will not be cup-tied for the Champions’ League.
Eliaquim Mangala (Porto)
Moyes would also have had the chance to watch the France centre-half. Porto are aware of United’s interest in the 22-year-old and would want £40m for him.