Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is set to meet Ed Woodward this week as the club step up their January transfer plans, Goal has learned.
Van Gaal, who is hoping to spend up to £50 million this winter, has long considered Kevin Strootman his No.1 target and is also keen to bolster his defence following a shaky start to the season.
Following the second biggest summer transfer spend in history, such an outlay would take the club past the £200m barrier for the 2014-15 season.
The Dutchman has become well aware of the task on his hands at Old Trafford following a poor start to the season which has garnered just one win from five Premier League matches, including the humbling 5-3 defeat at Leicester City on Sunday.
And as he displayed in the summer, the former Bayern Munich coach is willing to let players go to fund new arrivals.
The position of Rafael, who signed for the club alongside twin brother Fabio in 2007 and made his debut a year later, is under threat and he could be shown the door as Van Gaal continues to build a squad in his image.
The Brazilian enjoyed his best season at Old Trafford in the 2012-13 campaign, Sir Alex Ferguson’s last as manager, but struggled for form and fitness under David Moyes and he could face the same fate as Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Javier Hernandez, Nani and Shinji Kagawa.
Chris Smalling, who is behind Phil Jones and Jonny Evans in the pecking order at centre-back, finds himself in the same boat and could also be moved on.
However, Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, has already told investors that big spending is not on the cards in January and is aware of the impact that another big outlay could have on next year’s accounts.
United recently announced a record annual revenue of £433.2m to June 30, 2014, an increase of 19 per cent, and also revealed profits of £23.8m.
Those figures, though, do not include five of the club’s six summer acquisitions, with the signings of Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao’s loan deal to be declared in next year’s results.
But Woodward is also aware of the impact of a second year without Champions League football on the club’s existing sponsorship deals, as well as its forecasted financial results for next year, and will discuss the viability of further deals with Van Gaal.
Although Van Gaal fully appreciates the need for new central defenders, he remains keen on Strootman, the Netherlands and Roma midfielder, and United are confident they could reach a deal either in January or the summer.
The club have made his representatives aware that he would earn £100,000 per week at Old Trafford, should he recover sufficiently from a serious knee injury, although Roma have repeatedly stated their desire to keep him in the Italian capital.
Strootman was pivotal to Van Gaal’s Dutch squad and his injury signalled a change in formation for the country’s World Cup campaign. The manager believes the 24-year-old can play an equally important role in his United team as he looks to strike the right balance in his ranks following the signings of some of the world’s top attacking talents.
The Red Devils, having bought only Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw before the start of the Premier League season, kicked off the campaign with defeat to Swansea City at Old Trafford before drawing at Sunderland and Burnley.
Van Gaal picked up his first win as United boss in impressive style against QPR on September 14, with Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and Blind impressing on their Old Trafford debuts, but saw his side capitulate following the award of a soft penalty at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.