Manchester United have seemingly fallen behind in the race to land German World Cup-winning defender Mats Hummels. If reports are to be believed, the Red Devils' Premier League rivals Arsenal currently lead the race to secure the player's signature.
It's been indicated that United have been put off by the £32 million asking price, and are set to move on in their pursuit to bring a centre-half to Old Trafford.
And this is something that should worry fans of the Old Trafford outfit. Clearly they've struggled at the back this season; they've lacked leadership and failed to keep opponents out. If it wasn't for David de Gea between the sticks, the Red Devils really would be struggling.
Injuries haven't helped the club, of course. The likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans - who have struggled for consistency - have already failed to maintain their fitness throughout the campaign so far.
Van Gaal has already had to call on the likes of Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair and Tom Thorpe this term as the club continue to look fragile at the back. The club have kept just two clean sheets from their opening seven fixtures, and even shipped five goals at the King Power Stadium against Premier League new-boys Leicester City last month.
The defensive dilemma is not a surprise, though. Since the end of the David Moyes era, Manchester United have lost the heart of their team in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. They also lost one of their most experienced and consistent stars of the last five years in Patrice Evra.
Van Gaal may well have added the luxury signings of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, but that has failed to mask the problem his side have at the back.
Hummels is a must
So, why then are the United hierarchy not doing everything in their power to land Hummels in the winter transfer window or next summer? In fact, it's surprising that they didn't at least make a bid for him in the previous window?
But last summer has gone, and Ed Woodward and Co. will currently be assessing the options they have to bring to the club in 2015. There's no doubt about it, Hummels should be at the top of their list.
He's everything United need: powerful, tough in the tackle and a defensive leader. Most importantly, though, at 25-years-old, he's approaching the prime of his career. He could be the perfect partner for Phil Jones over the next five years.
With United surely on their way up under Van Gaal, and Dortmund struggling to find form of old under Jurgen Klopp in the early stages of this season, perhaps Hummels will eventually look to leave the Westfalenstadion - just like his former teammates Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski.
Must beat Arsenal
It's certainly crucial for the Red Devils that they don't let their rivals Arsenal land him. Van Gaal's side are already behind the Gunners in the defensive department, and Hummels would only improve their rivals further.
If it comes down to a bidding war between United and Arsenal, surely the Manchester club have the resources to come out as the winner. And if the Red Devils offer a high enough fee, then Dortmund may eventually have to give in - and ultimately cash in.
In truth, though, the high price tag shouldn't really come into it. United seem intent on bringing the world's best players to the club, and Hummels is one of the leading players in his position.
After all, United splashed out over £30m to bring in the unproven - but exceptionally talented - Luke Shaw. Hummels, on the other hand, represents an experienced player who still has everything to give.
Manchester United fans: Do you think Hummels is worth £32m? Have your say in the comments section below!
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