Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

The morning after Manchester United’s pursuit of Spanish winger Pedro ended with news that the Barcelona player was moving instead to Chelsea, Old Trafford chief executive Ed Woodward was in bullish mood.

‘Don’t worry, we have bigger targets,’ was the thrust of Woodward’s message to associates. ‘The Pedro thing will eventually be forgotten.’

Woodward, on the whole, does not generally want for self-confidence. His attitude towards the business of buying footballers reflects this and on his watch attempts have already been made to sign — with varying degrees of success — Gareth Bale, Angel di Maria, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Radamel Falcao and Sergio Ramos.

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Louis van Gaal is keen to bring in Gareth Bale to Old Trafford but is running out of time to do the deal 

Louis van Gaal is keen to bring in Gareth Bale to Old Trafford but is running out of time to do the deal 

Chelsea pipped Manchester United to the signing of Pedro from Barcelona last week

Chelsea pipped Manchester United to the signing of Pedro from Barcelona last week

As United and the rest of Europe hurtle into the final week of another trading window, therefore, Woodward and his manager Louis van Gaal continue to aim high. Gossip in football circles continues to hold United at its core with the suggestion being that England’s biggest club crave something spectacular between now and next Tuesday.

Van Gaal has a liking for Bale in particular. If he could take one player from within Europe tomorrow then it would be Real Madrid’s Wales winger. He admires Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller also while suggestions that Woodward attempted to draw Barcelona into a rather ambitious conversation about the Brazilian Neymar have not been categorically denied.

All these remain fanciful, however, in terms of the current window at least and this represents United’s big problem. The odds on Bale moving to United in the next couple of years are pretty short but Van Gaal is confident of signing him during his time at the club. The Dutchman currently has two years of his contract left.

Manchester United boss Van Gaal admires Barcelona and Brazil superstar Neymar

Manchester United boss Van Gaal admires Barcelona and Brazil superstar Neymar

Van Gaal is also a fan of Bayern Munich and Germany forward Thomas Muller

Van Gaal is also a fan of Bayern Munich and Germany forward Thomas Muller

In terms of right now, however, United find themselves being pushed towards other marquee players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in whom they have no interest, and the faded Brazilian star Pato. They were in this situation a year ago and ended up with a lame thoroughbred in the shape of Falcao.

They have learned a lesson from that, which is why the next few days will be so interesting. While reaching for the stars it is important to keep a grasp on some semblance of sound judgment and perhaps this is why the official line out of Old Trafford on Monday was that, apart from an interest in Southampton’s forward Sadio Mane, there were no other situations currently ‘active’.

Supporters, and even owners, tend to grow frustrated at this time of year. They do not understand why lots of money does not talk more convincingly. If it did, though, Chelsea or Manchester City would have signed Paul Pogba by now and City also Kevin De Bruyne.

Transfers of this scale are enormously complicated, however. They often take years of planning.

Van Gaal and Manchester United have just a week to sign a player before the window shuts

Van Gaal and Manchester United have just a week to sign a player before the window shuts

Southampton's Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane has been linked with a move to Manchester United

Southampton’s Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane has been linked with a move to Manchester United

United, for example, signed the German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger this summer after failing 12 months earlier.

City, meanwhile, identified Yaya Toure while Mark Hughes was manager but had to wait two years and first sign his brother Kolo as bait before Roberto Mancini was eventually able to push the button on the deal.

Currently, Chelsea are trying to sign Pogba while aware that he has the opportunity to go to Barcelona next summer. De Bruyne, meanwhile, has been keeping City waiting while he himself looks to see if interest from Bayern Munich, which was denied on Monday, and Paris Saint-Germain hardens up.

These days, there are only a handful of clubs with the money to compete at this level. Three of them, United, City and Chelsea, are English and their hands will only strengthen when the new Premier League TV deal kicks in next season.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has had a busy summer trying to sign players for United

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has had a busy summer trying to sign players for United

Nevertheless, competition at the top table is fierce with clubs even attempting to stockpile players they do not necessarily need just to ensure their opponents do not get them.

United have fallen victim to this before, with Chelsea beating them to a number of players during the early years of Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge.

United know they need another galactico to help Van Gaal’s team tick at the top end of the field. One of their problems, however, is that the majority of players they want are already playing at clubs wealthy enough to resist them, for the time being at least.

Sitting in a restaurant recently, Van Gaal spoke to friends in expansive terms about Bale in particular. He believes the former Tottenham player can lend his team the raw pace, dynamism and unpredict-ability that they currently lack.

It is not a new view, either. Sir Alex Ferguson first spotted Bale playing as a left back in the Southampton youth team and expressed a firm interest. His successor David Moyes, meanwhile, was disappointed Woodward did not manage to sign him when he left Spurs for Spain two summers ago. That still rankles with the Scot.

Here in 2015, meanwhile, time is once again running out. If Woodward is to pull off his Wolf of Wall Street deal this week it may take more than hard cash to do his talking.

WHO COULD MOVE IN THE REMAINING DAYS OF THE TRANSFER WINDOW? 

By Simon Jones

JOHN STONES

Everton to Chelsea, £40m

Everton say Stones (right) is not for sale but the defender wants to talk and upping the bid from £30million to £40m would change things. Chelsea are also keen on Paul Pogba and offered £54m for the Juventus midfielder last week. The Blues will send Juan Cuadrado to them on loan today, but the Italians want Pogba for another season.

ALEXANDRE PATO

Corinthians to Man Utd, Stoke, Crystal Palace or Everton, £11m

Known as ‘the Duck’, the former AC Milan striker has fluttered back to form on loan at Sao Paulo. United remain keen to sign Southampton’s Sadio Mane but Pato, 25, could yet be on the menu. Failing that, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Everton have interest.

SIMONE ZAZA

Juventus to West Ham, loan

West Ham’s dire need for a striker has pushed them towards a loan deal for Zaza. With Modibo Maiga also due to join Al Nassr, West Ham have discussed other loans for Roma’s former Arsenal striker Gervinho and Emmanuel Adebayor at Spurs.

VICTOR WANYAMA

Southampton to Spurs, £20m

While the focus is on West Bromwich striker Saido Berahino, Mauricio Pochettino also needs a defensive midfielder. A bid for Wanyama has been rejected and Southampton are determined to resist. Pochettino wants a winger too if they can sell Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend.

KEVIN DE BRUYNE

Wolfsburg to Man City or Bayern Munich, £57m

The price is rising above £50m but City remain in their pursuit of the Belgium midfielder. Bayern would consider an offer next summer.

THE WILD CARD…

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

PSG to Arsenal or Man Utd, £4.5m

The best strikers – Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain -are all wanted but their clubs won’t sell. Ibrahimovic is 33, abrasive and has a salary of £10m a year – but he is available.

 


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