Manchester United cannot fail to sign William Carvalho

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Manchester United need a central midfielder, and they have for ages.

When you replace players like Roy Keane and Paul Scholes with players like Anderson and Marouane Fellaini there's naturally going to be a drop off in quality.

For Manchester United the solution does not look like coming from the academy. United fans got a glimpse of the next generation of talent against MK Dons, and it was not a pretty sight.

Which means they'll have to buy again in January despite an £150m summer outlay. Signings like Falcao and Di Maria were great, but they didn't address key areas.

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So I guess it's just as well they announced record revenues. 

But just like United's summer signings, those records were a fig leaf shielding more serious concerns - chiefly an 84 per cent drop in profits.

January targets

Finances aside, United will need to target another central midfielder in the New Year if they want to avoid situations whereby Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher are expected to play meaningful roles in the first-team. Nobody wants that.

Fortunately, a solution is available, and he plays in Portugal. Unfortunately, Louis van Gaal seems to be leaning towards the alternative, who sits on a treatment table in Italy.

William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon and Kevin Strootman of AS Roma seem to be the top targets for the United boss as the club already starts looking towards the January transfer window.

Van Gaal, familiar with Strootman from his time with the Dutch national team, is understandably keen to stick to what he knows. But Manchester United have a fantastic opportunity regarding Carvalho that would be foolish to pass up.

Sporting relationship

United enjoyed an excellent relationship with Sporting Lisbon for seven years between 2003 and 2010. A preseason friendly with the Portuguese club ended up with Sir Alex Ferguson buying Cristiano Ronaldo after Rio Ferdinand wouldn't stop going on about how good he was.

Gary Neville, sitting on his sofa back in Manchester watching MUTV, felt compelled to text brother Phil after watching the game.

"It was in the first half when he made the run, inside John O'Shea," Neville recalls. "And I thought 'bloody hell'. A good start.

Nani followed, before the partnership lapsed amid accusations of poor United conduct regarding underhand dealings for former-Sporting players Miguel Veloso and Bruma.

That was that then, the end of United's lucrative link-up with one of Europe's top producers of young talent. But there's a chance we might be witnessing a revival.

Nani has now moved back to Sporting on a season-long loan - United footing his wage bill throughout - in what appears to be a reset in relations between the two clubs. The deal for Nani greased the wheels on United's pursuit of Marcos Rojo, an important short-term signing.

But the goodwill generated in the Nani agreement could have even more positive long-term consequences.

Manchester United transfer news

The one they all want

William Carvalho is the prize catch, the player all of Europe wants to sign. The powerful midfielder is the ideal ticket for Manchester United, the perfect compliment to the measured approach of Ander Herrera.

He won't come cheap, the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal were quoted his full £37m release clause earlier last season. That seems to have dropped to an asking price of £24m now, which, seeing as Carvalho is just 22, represents excellent value.

Manchester United must use the goodwill generated in their loan of Nani to ensure that they are at the front of the queue for Carvalho. A close relationship with Sporting has paid dividends in the past.

There's reason to believe it will again in the future.

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