Manchester United have turned their attentions to forward Cody Gakpo after ending their interest in Marko Arnautovic because they would not match Bologna’s transfer fee demands – and after facing a fans’ backlash over the proposed controversial signing.
The club have also agreed a deal with Juventus for the midfielder Adrien Rabiot. The club’s de facto football director John Murtough is now travelling to meet the France’s international’s agent - and mother - Veronique to agree the personal terms.
Ten Hag has told Rabiot how keen he is to join United with Juventus having sanctioned the conversation once an agreement was reached. The deal is understood to be around €15million to €20 million. The midfielder wants to move to the Premier League, as revealed by Telegraph Sport in June.
Ideally the 27-year-old would join a club that is playing in the Champions League but such is United’s status that he is prepared to join them as Ten Hag desperately tries to strengthen his midfield.
Gakpo, a 23-year-old Dutch international, is expected to cost around £35million and United have registered their interest with his club PSV Eindhoven who are coached by their former striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
Gakpo is clearly well-known to United’s manager, and former Ajax coach, Erik ten Hag and scored 21 goals last season and scored twice in the weekend win over FC Emmen. He is normally used as a winger but is tall and can play as a central striker and is represented by SEG who also advise Ten Hag.
Even so the United manager’s first-choice as he searches for another forward had been Antony but Ajax are demanding too much for the 22-year-old Brazilian winger. Gakpo, who came through the PSV academy, would be half the price and is understood to be interested in joining Ten Hag at United although there other Premier League clubs are also tracking him.
PSV are unlikely to listen to offers until they know whether they will make it through the Champions League qualifiers to reach the lucrative group stages but United are planning to make an offer as they desperately look to improve their attacking options.
United have lost out on Benjamin Sesko with the 19-year-old Slovenian forward agreeing a deal to move from RB Salzburg to RB Leipzig next year. In fairness, it was hard for them to negotiate given the transfer is between sister clubs.
Intermediaries have also encouraged them to consider Atletico Madrid’s former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata who had been expected to return to Juventus and who the Spanish club are desperate to sell with a year left on his contract. United have also considered Morata in the past but are unlikely to be interested.
United had an offer of 8.5million euros rejected by Bologna over the weekend for Arnautovic and fully intended to make an improved bid in the knowledge that the 33-year-old former Stoke City and West Ham United forward was extremely keen to join them.
However Bologna increased their valuation of the Austrian international to a level that United do not believe is worth it given his age and because they wanted him primarily as a back-up striker with Anthony Martial injured, Cristiano Ronaldo not yet match-fit and still hoping to leave the club and Mason Greenwood suspended indefinitely. It forced Ten Hag to use Christian Eriksen as a false nine in the shocking 2-1 home defeat against Brighton.
Under-pressure United were also aware of a fans backlash against Arnautovic partly because of who the player is and his troublesome past but also because of accusations he faced of using racist language during Austria’s tie against North Macedonia at Euro 2020. Arnautovic, of Serbian descent, later apologised although he insisted he said nothing racist but was given a one-match ban.
Ten Hag, however, wanted Arnautovic having previously worked with him at Dutch club Twente.
United are also still continuing to weigh up a move for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic having long been linked with the Lazio midfielder. Preliminary talks have been held with agents although United have not yet decided whether to make a bid despite their hopes of signing Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong having all but ended as he indicates he does not want to join them.
United will also turn their attention to moving on a number of fringe players such as Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams.