Radamel Falcao is set for a crucial weekend in his quest for a long-term career at Manchester United with the club close to making a final decision.
The Manchester Evening News reports that Falcao will be given a 'clear indication' by Louis van Gaal over whether he has a long-term future at Old Trafford when he reveals his team to face Sunderland on Saturday.
With Robin van Persie and James Wilson out of the fixture, the report claims Falcao will be heading for the exit door if he's omitted from the starting eleven.
Van Gaal can call on Wayne Rooney, although the Dutchman has utilised him in midfield this season, and Falcao. But such has been the Colombian international's struggle in front of goal this season, he's not guaranteed to start against Gus Poyet's side.
All season it's been reported that Manchester United will wait until the end of the season before making a decision on whether to make his loan move permanent, but Louis van Gaal has privately been exploring alternatives.
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Falcao has not lived up to the billing after his temporary switch from Monaco, and United are obviously reluctant to shell out more than £40m on a striker so visibly on the decline.
He's struggled with form and fitness, which is part of the reason why Van Gaal has failed to nail down his preferred starting lineup.
Options for United
The possible options for Van Gaal in the summer are numerous, with plenty of cash available to the Manchester United man should he decide against using the funds currently earmarked for Falcao.
Paris Saint Germain's Edinson Cavani is one, while 21-year-old Paulo Dybala - who has also been linked with Arsenal and Chelsea - is the lower cost option. Palermo club president Maurizio Zamparini has stated that he's already turned down one approach.
Gareth Bale of Real Madrid is a long-term target for Old Trafford officials, who are prepared to sanction up to £150m more spending this summer to make United competitive with Premier League pacesetters Chelsea and Manchester City.
Falcao to go
For United it would seem a no-brainer. There should be no way they make Falcao's move permanent, with his £43m release clause looking at least £20m too expensive.
A younger and cheaper alternative would be preferable, although Cavani could be an experienced option at the right price following his struggle to settle in Paris.
The 28-year-old would be pricey, but PSG could be tempted to let him go at the end of the season to fund their own summer transfer plans. If United want a striker with a proven track record, but don't want the injury risk that is Falcao, then Cavani seems like the most achievable target.