Monday 23 April 2018

United to increase Fabregas bid amid fears deal could stall

Wilfried Zaha is shadowed by Mark Bridge during Manchester United’s 5-1 win over the A League All-Stars at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
Wilfried Zaha is shadowed by Mark Bridge during Manchester United’s 5-1 win over the A League All-Stars at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

Mark Ogden

Manchester United plan to submit an increased £30m offer for Cesc Fabregas in a bid to accelerate efforts to sign the midfielder amid concerns that managerial upheaval at Barcelona could jeopardise their move for the former Arsenal captain.

United manager David Moyes, whose squad is due to fly from Sydney to Tokyo this afternoon for the next leg of the club's pre-season tour, confirmed last week that a formal offer, in the region of £26m, had been lodged for Fabregas.

With Barcelona failing to respond to United's offer, however, the Premier League champions are now prepared to increase their bid in order to underline their determination to make Fabregas the first major signing of the Moyes era.

However, with Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova forced to step down from his post at the Nou Camp on Friday due to the return of a cancerous tumour, the Spanish champions are now likely to focus solely on resolving the management position and offering their full support to Vilanova and his family before addressing outstanding transfer business.

United, who are also bracing themselves for a renewed attempt from Chelsea to sign Wayne Rooney, had been confident of enticing the 26-year-old Fabregas back to the Premier League, two years after his transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona.

Fabregas remains the No 1 priority for Moyes, but the unforeseen circumstances of Vilanova's deteriorating health have led to uncertainty over the outcome of United's move for the player.

Primarily, Vilanova's illness has led to Barcelona's executives shelving all unrelated business, but there is also an acceptance at United that a new manager may tempt Fabregas to stay at the club following his lack of opportunities under Vilanova last season.

Barcelona, having signed Neymar for £53m this summer following their decision to reward Lionel Messi with a £17m-a-year six-year contract in February, remain set on a policy of reducing their wage bill by player sales this summer.

Chief executive Ed Woodward's return from United's tour of Australia on Wednesday to attend to urgent transfer business in Europe has yet to bear fruit.

And following United's 5-1 victory against the A-League All Stars in Sydney last night, Moyes admitted: "I have not had any more news, no more updates on anything really."

United cruised to the win in front of 83,127 at the ANZ Stadium with Robin van Persie marking his first pre-season appearance with a goal following two apiece from Danny Welbeck and youngster Jesse Lingard.

Welbeck's goals, his first in any game for United since the 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in February, came in the wake of a pep talk from Moyes about his recent poor form in front of goal.

"I told him [Welbeck] that he could have scored four or five, but you have to keep getting there to score and he did so," said Moyes. "I have said to him that, if he continues to work as hard for the team as he has been doing, he will get his rewards. He made the 'keeper save with his feet, was a bit unlucky at other times, had some great runs and I think he showed a bit of versatility about himself. I was impressed."

Woodward, meanwhile, has revealed the club are considering restoring the words "football club", which were dropped 15 years ago in a controversial redesign, to their club crest. Woodward, who added that there were no plans to rename Old Trafford, confirmed that both he and Joel Glazer, United's joint-chairman, were uncomfortable with the present design.

"I didn't like that change," Woodward said of the 1998 redesign which removed the words "football club" from the United badge. "Joel didn't like that change. We will look at that and have a think about that. We are a football club. We are not a business. The way I described it to the staff was 'we are a 135-year-old club and that's what you have to remember'.

"We are a football club. A club with a capital C: Club. And strapped to that is a commercial business that's going to fund a lot of the player purchases going forward here and we have to be supportive of both.

"We've got to make sure they coexist together and don't impact each other and that's where we are trying to balance it. The heritage is not just important, it is central to what we are trying to do. As an example we will not rename Old Trafford, the name is part of the fabric of the club. It means something to our fans."

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