Manchester United’s prospects of completing a January move for Kevin Strootman are set to be boosted this weekend with the Roma midfielder due to make his return to action following an eight-month cruciate ligament injury lay-off.
United manager Louis van Gaal confirmed during the club’s summer tour of the United States - ahead of a friendly against Roma in Denver - that he would monitor Strootman’s recovery from injury before assessing a new year move for the Holland international.
Roma had anticipated Strootman being available again by the end of November and the player’s progress has led to the Italian outfit arranging a B team game for the 24-year-old this Sunday.
And if Strootman emerges unscathed from the run-out with Alberto De Rossi’s reserve team, Roma coach Rudi Garcia is ready to restore him to the squad for the fixture against Atalanta on November 22 or the Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital three days later.
Strootman has been sidelined since suffering the injury against Napoli in March, with his subsequent absence from Holland’s World Cup squad forcing Van Gaal to abandon his traditional 4-3-3 formation and deploy 3-5-2 in Brazil to compensate for the loss of the former PSV Eindhoven player.
With Roma aware of United’s interest in Strootman, both Garcia and club owner James Pallotta have insisted that the midfielder will not be sold.
Garcia claimed during the summer that it would take a ‘three digit figure’ – interpreted to be at least €100m – to tempt the club to sell the player.
Strootman was reported to have taken steps to accelerate a move to United in September, however, by leaving long-standing agent Chiel Dekker in order to sign up with Kees Vos, the man who negotiated Robin van Persie’s transfer from Arsenal to United during the summer of 2012.
Van Gaal has been told he will have funds to spend in January if required and Strootman remains his favoured target, despite growing concerns over the injuries afflicting United’s central defenders.
Strootman was regarded as one of Van Gaal’s ‘untouchables’ in the Dutch team, with the United manager making the player the key cog in midfield.
But despite his admiration for Strootman, Van Gaal is keen to assess the player’s recovery and performances over the coming weeks before deciding on a January move.
With Radamel Falcao still searching for full fitness at Old Trafford, 10 months after suffering a cruciate ligament injury while playing for Monaco, the risks of gambling on Strootman making a flawless recovery are clear.
But with Tom Cleverley expected to make a permanent move to Aston Villa following his loan spell at Villa Park and Brazilian midfielder Anderson told he can leave United, Van Gaal remains determined to bolster his midfield options.
Manchester United will consider cancelling the remaining six months on the £60,000-a-week contract of Brazilian midfielder Anderson if they are unable to find a new club for the player in January.