Manchester United are aiming to pull off two major transfers in January, with Goal learning that they are preparing to attempt to sign both Jadon Sancho and Erling Braut Haaland.
United believe that there is a chance of securing a deal for Sancho in January after the 19-year-old England international was censured by Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho was fined and dropped by manager Lucien Favre for his side’s clash with Borussia Monchengladbach in October after he returned late from international duty.
While Sancho accepted the punishment, he was then subbed off by Favre just 36 minutes into the game between Dortmund and rivals Bayern Munich before the international break, as Bayern enjoyed a 4-0 rout.
The potential unease between club and player has alerted United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to the possibility that Dortmund may be prepared to sanction the sale of Sancho in January, with it previously assumed that any deal would have to be completed at the end of the season.
Woodward has discussed the club’s ability to do what he terms ‘opportunistic’ transfers, with the purchase of Juan Mata under David Moyes an example. Moyes had not identified Mata as a player he wished to add to the squad but was happy to accept him when Woodward made it clear a deal was there to be done.
Both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have been frustrated in the past when Woodward has presented them with targets they were not keen on, though Mourinho relented in the case of Fred for fear no other midfielder would be forthcoming.
Because Woodward retains overall control over transfer strategy and has a direct line to the Glazer family, he is able to greenlight transfers he identifies quicker than finding players through the club’s extended scouting network. However, with Sancho firmly established as a target for the summer, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to welcome an earlier arrival.
United’s exceptionally strong cash balance, last reported as around £140 million ($181m), means that they do not need to refill their coffers before striking a deal that could cost around £100m ($130m).
There is another motivation for signing Sancho as soon as possible. United are aware that the player wants to play regularly in the Champions League, and they would be able to make a more compelling case to Sancho if they are in contention for a top-four finish in January rather than if they finish outside the Champions League places come May.
Their strong cash position, which is has not been hugely changed despite the announcement of a £140m increase to the club's debt on Monday, could also permit them to bring forward a deal for Red Bull Salzburg’s 19-year-old striker Haaland. The Norway international has been scouted by Solskjaer’s team, and a £85m ($110m) deal could be struck that would see Haaland sent back on loan to the Austrian club for the remainder of the season.
If both players were signed it could have immediate implications for potential deals for both Declan Rice and Mario Mandzukic, both of whom remain on United’s transfer shortlist.
United were considering a winter transfer for West Ham midfielder Rice, but that could be shelved for the summer in order to secure both Haaland and Sancho first.
Woodward was, meanwhile, confident of signing 33-year-old Croatian striker Mandzukic from Juventus to provide support for Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.
However, if Haaland signs, they will pass on Mandzukic and go through the rest of the season relying on their young forward line.