With a new-look recruitment team in place, Manchester United are beginning to formalise plans for the summer transfer window and Erling Braut Haaland is widely thought to be a major target for the Red Devils.
The Borussia Dortmund striker is the hottest property in Europe having produced 47 goals in 48 games in Germany since joining from Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg in January 2020.
Haaland, 20, has been on United’s radar before but a deal could not be completed to bring the Norway international to Manchester before he signed for Molde and before he joined Dortmund.
Yet the 20-time Premier League winners will try again this coming summer, it appears, with Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona among the many rival suitors for his signature.
Haaland is expected to demand a fee north of £100million and certainly one higher than the clause in his contract that makes him available for below £70m in the summer of 2022.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned that United will not spend freely in the next transfer window because their finances have been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to be realistic, we have to be responsible in the way we do our business both on and off the pitch,” he said.
The United boss added: “Where can we spend the money? And how much is there? It’s just the real world now. It has changed.
“I think there’s just going to be less and less transfers happening in the world of football until this changes.”
Clearly, United’s ability to compete with clubs such as Chelsea and Man City – with Real Madrid and Barcelona also limited financially – would be aided by some big-money player sales.
Step in West Ham. United have several sellable assets and perhaps the most lucrative will be the loser of the battle between David de Gea and Dean Henderson.
Only one of the two goalkeepers will remain at Old Trafford next season and it is up to Solskjaer who he trusts to be the long-term No 1.
The other player is expected to be sold, and either could command a healthy fee given their quality. It has been suggested it would take £50m to sign Henderson, for example.
Paul Pogba is another who could raise some serious cash but United will hope to keep hold of the Frenchman, who was excellent pre-injury, despite the noise from his agent Mino Raiola.
Another of the players who United may be more inclined to part ways with, and who could significantly boost the cash reserves available to Solskjaer, is Jesse Lingard.
The Norwegian spoke of wanting Lingard to return to United with a restored confidence at the end of the season after sending him out on loan to West Ham.
The 28-year-old’s impact in claret and blue has been so notable that he was recalled to the England squad by Gareth Southgate on Thursday.
Lingard is said to be equally eager on joining West Ham on a full-time basis having loved life so far under Moyes, as he’s shown on the pitch.
And while United could probably find a role for Lingard next season, it would surely only be as a back-up player, and it’s clear he is relishing being relied upon as a key man in the capital.
So selling the player to the Hammers permanently, if they can get up to £20m for his services, makes a lot of sense for United even though he would be a brilliant option in reserve for Solskjaer.
The £20m that could be raised by his exit, on top of the money made from the sale of either De Gea or Henderson and the potential departures of the likes of Phil Jones and Andreas Pereira, could go a long way.
Add to that the funds Solskjaer will already have available to sign players, with a new centre-forward and a new top-level centre-back his top priorities, and signing Haaland becomes increasingly viable regardless of the big fee Dortmund will demand.
With their own top-four status now surely secured, United would love Lingard’s form to continue at West Ham as his value – and importance to Moyes and co. – only increases. It could help them land Haaland.