Manchester United make shock move for former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas

The Barcelona player is among United's top targets this summer as they look to bolster their midfield

Cesc Fabregas could make a stunning return to the Premier League this summer - but not necessarily with Arsenal as has been mooted - but with a switch to Manchester United.

An exclusive story by The Evening Standard claims that United have made a bid to sign the Spain international from Barcelona.

The deal is designed to make a statement of United's intent following Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to retire at the end of this season.

Bringing the former Arsenal captain to Old Trafford would be a huge coup to begin David Moyes' reign while it is also reported by the Evening Standard that United remain interested in bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back from Real Madrid.

It is believed contact has been made with Barcelona over Fabregas, who swapped the Emirates Stadium for the Nou Camp in a £35m deal just two years ago. Barcelona still owe the Gunners £5m of that fee and would be looking to recoup at least £20m for the Spain international.

Fabregas has struggled to make much of an impact at the Catalan giants and has been under heavy criticism from the club’s fans for his performances this season.

The 26-year-old midfielder has been regularly left out of the starting XI, although he was picked for the 2-1 win against Atletico Madrid last night with the La Liga title already won.

Barcelona are keen to make changes to the squad following their humiliating 7-0 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final and are ready to listen to offers.

Fabregas would be happy to return to the Premier League, where he made a huge impact during his eight years in an Arsenal shirt.

It has been reported Arsenal inserted a clause when they sold Fabregas to Barcelona to ensure they had first option on buying him back, while Arsene Wenger said last January that he believed the player would return to Emirates one day. “I’m not convinced that he will not one day come back here because he is a real Arsenal man,” added the Gunners boss. “He loves Arsenal, he watches every Arsenal game.”

United want to strengthen the midfield as they look to retain the League title next season under new manager Moyes while also competing for the Champion League.

Paul Scholes has retired, Anderson is expected to be sold, Darren Fletcher’s future is uncertain because of an on-going health issue and Phil Jones’s future is at centre-half.

Michael Carrick is United’s main playmaker but he turns 32 in July. Fabregas has been identified as a key acquisition and United’s interest will stun Arsenal, who are expected to spend big themselves this summer.

It remains to be seen whether they will try to exercise their option on Fabregas and use up a lot of their budget on just one player.

Fabregas admitted following Barcelona’s victory last night that he hadn’t been at his best since joining them. “I have to improve, I need to be self-critical once the season ends but I’m young and I can do it,” he said.

United, who beat Swansea 2-1 yesterday to give Ferguson the perfect send-off in his last game in charge at Old Trafford, are confident they can buy back Ronaldo from Real.

Ronaldo is refusing to sign a new contract at the Spanish club and his current deal has two years left to run.

The Portugal international has scored 200 goals for Real since joining from United for £80m in 2009 but is unsettled at the Bernabeu. He played a huge part in Ferguson’s side claiming nine major honours during his six years there, including three League titles and the Champions League in 2008.

Despite Ferguson’s claim that Wayne Rooney is not for sale, it is understood United will listen to offers for the England international. After leaving Rooney out of his squad to face Swansea yesterday, Ferguson said the striker had asked for a transfer.

United do not want to sell him to a Premier League rival and Paris St-Germain are the strong favourites for his signature.

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