Monday 11 December 2017

Manchester United line up Pedro as Angel di Maria poised for exit

Di Maria will leave Manchester United with (right) arriving
Di Maria will leave Manchester United with (right) arriving
Manchester United are reportedly lining up a move for Barcelona's Pedro

Mark Ogden

Paris Saint-Germain expect to complete the signing of Angel di Maria this weekend, with Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal ready to replace the unsettled Argentinian with Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez.

Despite Van Gaal claiming he had no idea as to the whereabouts of Di Maria, the £59.7m British record signing, following United's 2-0 defeat by PSG in Chicago on Wednesday evening, it is understood that discussions between senior figures at both clubs have taken place while the former Real Madrid player has remained in Argentina awaiting a conclusion to negotiations.

Having initially offered just €40million (£28.5m) for Di Maria, who had been due to link up with the United squad in California last Saturday before missing the flight to the US, PSG are now prepared to pay in the region of £45million for the 27-year-old.

And PSG coach Laurent Blanc is confident that an agreement can be struck by the time his club return to France following tomorrow's French Super Cup encounter with Olympique Lyonnais in Montreal.

"Negotiations are in tandem (ongoing)," Blanc said. "But as Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are both big clubs, that can be difficult. But we feel we are close to the end."

While Van Gaal continues to refuse to discuss Di Maria's future in public, United are now privately keen to draw a line under what has become an expensive mistake by selling the winger to PSG.

Di Maria is known to have struggled to embrace Van Gaal's methods, while the player's wife has been unsettled in Manchester since a burglary at the couple's Cheshire mansion in January.

There is also a sense within the club that Di Maria has displayed little appetite to work through his difficulties and that Van Gaal is prepared to wash his hands of him and turn instead to Pedro, who is available for £22million and has already told close friends that he is preparing to move to Old Trafford.

But while the Di Maria saga is close to being resolved, Van Gaal returned to Manchester from the States with his squad yesterday afternoon facing a series of developing problems ahead of next week's Premier League opener against Tottenham at Old Trafford

The most pressing concern centres on goalkeeper David de Gea, whose unconvincing performance against PSG hinted at the 24-year-old's lack of focus in the wake of his failure to secure a summer move to Real.

With Van Gaal telling Victor Valdes he can leave after refusing to play a reserve game last season and back-up keeper Anders Lindegaard restricted to just 45 minutes on tour due to a groin injury, the only alternatives to De Gea are new signing Sergio Romero and youngster Sam Johnstone, who played in all four tour games in the States but is now set to complete a loan move to Preston.

Van Gaal admitted that De Gea is showing signs of being distracted by his summer of uncertainty.

"We have a situation that is not favourable for David de Gea, but neither for us and neither for the club that maybe he wants to go to," Van Gaal said.

To further complicate matters for Van Gaal, his preferred replacement for De Gea should he be sold to Real - Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen - is now potentially cup-tied for this season's Champions League after playing in the Dutch club's qualifier against Rapid Vienna on Wednesday.

While insisting there were positives to take from the defeat by PSG - the progress of Luke Shaw and tour performances of Memphis Depay - United's goalscoring problems and central defensive issues resurfaced at Soldier Field.

And although Depay and Wayne Rooney showed signs of a developing partnership, they have struck just two goals between them in four games.

The Dutchman must also address the defensive uncertainty which was exposed by PSG - an issue not helped by defender Marcos Rojo missing the final week of the tour after forgetting to renew his passport in time to travel from his native Argentina.

In Rojo's absence, Daley Blind played as a left-sided centre-half in each of United's games on tour and Van Gaal admits that the Dutchman, who performed at left-back and in midfield last season, has now secured one of the two central positions ahead of the season opener against Spurs.

"I was very pleased with Blind's performances," Van Gaal said. "I think he can build up the game better from that position and he has defended very well.

"I think I shall use him there, but also in midfield and left-back.

"So I think I shall play Shaw with Blind and Matteo Darmian and then the right central defenders position I have to consider. I am pleased with Darmian. He can play left and right."

United will launch their £750m, 10-year kit deal with Adidas at midnight today following the end of their 13-year association with Nike. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Read more: Louis van Gaal has revealed what formation he will play this season

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