Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted that signing a commanding central midfielder is one of his top summer transfer priorities, with captain Wayne Rooney playing there out of a necessity to find balance in a problem position for the Red Devils.
United have been in the hunt for some of Europe's top midfield linchpins for two summers running, but despite being linked almost non-stop with the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Kevin Strootman that kind of world-class option has not arrived at Old Trafford under either Van Gaal or previous boss David Moyes.
Rooney has been a familiar figure in the middle of the park instead for much of this season, a situation which Van Gaal has effectively conceded cannot continue by once again insisting he hasn't got all the players he needs to be successful despite spending more than £150 million last summer.
Van Gaal quotes
In an interview with The Telegraph the Dutchman was asked if his main objective for the summer is to sign a dominant midfielder, replying: “Yes, of course. Of course that’s the case. I’m looking for balance and I need it in midfield.
“In the last games, I played with Adnan Januzaj and Angel Di Maria in the midfield positions and you need a certain balance for those kind of creative players. So when you have these creative players and you think that [Radamel] Falcao and [Robin] van Persie are also creative, then you have four creative players. Then you have to look for balance in your team.”
More moans over recruitment
Van Gaal was also at pains to make it clear United are far from the finished article at this stage of his time in charge, with the Red Devils still searching for a complete performance after playing well in patches but not for a full 90 minutes.
He said: "No [I don’t have all the players I need], but I’ve already said that. Every game that I was pleased with something, we have played parts of the game at a level where I think: ‘OK we have to [strengthen].’
“We never played 90 minutes. We have played maybe 80 minutes or 70 minutes and I have said that.
“We have also played very well and lost the game, that is also happening. That’s the beauty of football, the better team is not always winning.”
Pogba not Strootman fits the bill
United's most likely summer addition is Roma midfielder Strootman, who has a tremendous working relationship with Van Gaal dating back to his second spell as manager of the Dutch national team.
Strootman may already be a United player if it weren't for a cruciate ligament injury that ruined his World Cup dream, but given his struggles for full fitness since United simply have to spend big instead on Juve superstar Pogba.
The Frenchman left United as a teenager over a lack of first-team opportunities and has made that decision look a very astute one with Juve, developing into one of Europe's most talented midfielders at the age of just 21.
Pogba fits the bill in every respect and is worth breaking the bank for this summer, even if other more experienced options are available at a more competitive price tag.
What do you think United fans, if given the choice who would be your dream summer signing? Let us know by having your say in the comment box below...