Manchester United in record £27 million bid for Southampton left-back Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw is poised to become one of the most expensive full-backs in football history after Manchester United tabled a £27 million bid for the Southampton teenager on Sunday night
United are determined to rebuild their squad after their worst Premier League season and, with Louis van Gaal's appointment as manager now imminent, they have moved to make Shaw their first summer signing.
There is also interest in Shaw from Manchester City and Chelsea but, with Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations beginning to bite, also a reluctance from these clubs to pay beyond £25 million for a left-back.
The most expensive full-back in football is Dani Alves, who cost Barcelona £29 million, while Wayne Rooney was the most expensive teenager in football when he joined United in 2004 for £26.5 million.
Shaw was again outstanding yesterday as Southampton held United to a 1-1 draw and it appeared significant that both he and Adam Lallana should be substituted and then linger as they left the pitch to acknowledge all four corners of the ground.
Mauricio Pochettino, the manager, claimed there was "no special reason" for the substitutions but Lallana, who is a transfer target of Liverpool, offered little reassurance in an interview for the matchday programme. "I'm not saying this is the end by any means," he said. "We're in a position where we have to sit down as a club and decide what is best. I'm certainly ambitious. I want to one day play in the Champions League and compete for the Premier League title."
A record Premier League points tally was achieved by Southampton in finishing one place behind United in eighth but there was also the sense of a chapter potentially coming to an end. Pochettino can expect a call from Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, but on Monday he will meet Katarina Liebherr, the Southampton owner.
"We are going to talk," Pochettino said. "This is basically the end of a five-year project that started with Marcus Liebherr buying this club. We have achieved what we wanted, taking the club from League One to establish the club in the Premier League. Now a new project has to start."
United also hope that a new era is beginning. Notwithstanding the ban for all English clubs after the Heysel Stadium tragedy, this is the first time since 1981 that they have failed to qualify for European football.
It was also the first time since 2006 that United had gone into the last match of the season without a chance of winning the Premier League – something that was graphically brought home to Ryan Giggs as the interim manager entered the St Mary's press room last night. On the two television screens to his left, live footage of Manchester City's title celebrations were being screened.
"Don't mind if I stare over there do you?" said Giggs, looking at the opposite wall. He then admitted that he was split between the possible options of playing on past his 41st birthday, taking a year off football or joining the new manager's coaching staff. "I think I will decide within the next week. I think the managerial situation will probably be sorted out in the next week." It is also likely that Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, and certainly Nemanja Vidic, were playing their last matches for the club. They were kept occupied in a first half Southampton dominated, although United had justifiable reason to be aggrieved by the manner of the opening goal.
Rickie Lambert had got himself in front of Vidic but, as he rose to head the ball, his elbow caught the United captain flush on the nose. Blood was flowing but referee Mike Dean waved play on, with Steven Davis threading his pass beyond Ferdinand back to Lambert. David de Gea committed himself, with Lambert whipping his finish inside the near-post. Giggs said that it was a clear foul but excused Lambert of any malicious intent.
United finally found their rhythm when Michael Carrick replaced Shinji Kagawa at half-time and, after Victor Wanyama fouled Danny Welbeck, Juan Mata lifted an otherwise anonymous display by curling his free-kick into the top corner. Giggs is adamant that things can now only get better at United. The opposite may be true at Southampton.