Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has made it clear to Shinji Kagawa that he is extremely unlikely to get a chance in his favoured number 10 role this season and strengthened Atletico Madrid's resolve to pursue a £25m double swoop for the Japanese international and Javier Hernandez.
That is according to the Guardian, who believe Van Gaal has held frank talks with Kagawa to make it clear he will have to adapt and play as a wing-back or look for a fresh challenge elsewhere.
Hernandez is still waiting for similar clarification from Van Gaal over whether he'll be anything more than an impact substitute this year, but Atletico boss Diego Simeone is an admirer of the clinical Mexican forward and wants to bring him to the Vicente Calderon regardless of his situation at Old Trafford.
Time up for super Shinji?
Van Gaal has reserved judgement on each and every member of the United squad until the conclusion of their US tour, but following a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the International Champions Cup last night the time has come to make his mind up on who is best equipped to deal with a season of upheaval at the Theatre of Dreams.
Kagawa had hoped for a fresh chance to finally rediscover the form that saw hit light up the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, but United are blessed with fantastic attacking midfield options and as a result his exit looks increasingly likely.
Odd man out
Van Gaal has preferred Juan Mata in that role so far in pre-season and also has starlet Adnan Januzaj and Wayne Rooney capable of operating as chief playmaker, which means for Kagawa its time to consider a permanent switch to the flank or seriously consider the idea of signing for Atletico.
The 25-year-old would probably prefer an emotional return to Dortmund, but their interest has cooled in recent weeks and as a result Atletico are increasingly confident they can sign the pass master before the transfer window slams shut.
Hernandez also on the fringes
It's a similar story for Kagawa's Red Devils team-mate Hernandez, who must surely see the writing on the wall with Rooney in fine form and Robin van Persie enjoying a strong relationship with his former national coach Van Gaal.
Hernandez only started six Premier League games last term and could fear a similar fate this term, something Atletico boss Simeone is hoping to pray upon as he bids to overhaul a squad which has lost La Liga winners Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and David Villa this summer.
The 26-year-old has been targeted to join a revamped Rojiblancos attack also featuring Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann, with Van Gaal ready to let the under-performing duo move on to free up funds to spend on his own transfer targets over the next few weeks.