Louis van Gaal remains confident that Kevin Strootman will join Manchester United in 2015 - although the Dutch coach may need to wait until the summer if AS Roma advance to the Champions League knockout rounds at the expense of Manchester City this evening.
This is according to the Telegraph, who report that some regard Strootman’s move to Old Trafford as a certainty, with the player himself remaining tight-lipped over his future.
As a result of his failure to quash the intense speculation, Strootman’s popularity has taken a nose-dive at the Stadio Olimpico. The 24-year-old central midfielder has been booed by the Roma supporters in recent weeks, partly because of his reluctance to play down the rumours.
Informal agreement in place
It was revealed last month by Dutch journalist Hugo Borst that an agreement is already in place between Van Gaal and Strootman - who was the key player in the Netherlands’ national team under the current Manchester United manager before he suffered a serious knee injury in March - to re-unite at Old Trafford.
The two Dutchman were photographed sitting next to each other during an Eredivisie match between PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord in April, along with Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, and Borst reports that an informal agreement was put in place there and then.
Van Gaal admitted in the summer that he would “wait and see how [Strootman] comes back” following his cruciate ligament injury before making a formal move for the player.
Strootman has only played 60 minutes of league football since returning from his lengthy injury lay-off, but played 54 minutes against Sassuolo on Saturday as he edges closer to making a full recovery.
Criticism and interest
The midfielder also played the final seven minutes of Roma’s previous Champions League group stage match against CSKA Moscow, but committed the error which led to Vasili Berezutski’s 93rd-minute equaliser.
This sparked mass criticism from the Roma fans, already incensed by the speculation surrounding Strootman’s future, which in turn was criticised by the club’s sporting director Walter Sabatini.
“I think it is disrespectful to the player and to Rudi Garcia,” Sabatini has told Roma Radio. “He must recover his fitness by playing in relevant games, not when we are 3-0 at home.
“I encourage everyone to reflect on some words that are excessive and offensive towards a high level professional.”