Jose Mourinho’s hopes of strengthening the Manchester United squad are fading as Thursday’s deadline edges ever closer.
Despite last season enjoying their highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the 19-point gap to swashbuckling Premier League champions Manchester City underlined the improvements still needed.
Brazil international Fred, highly-rated full-back Diogo Dalot and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant all arrived by early July to bolster the squad, but United have since failed to bring in the further two additions Mourinho craves.
Fred is one of United’s three summer signings to date (Brynn Anderson/AP)
Just 10 days ago the Portuguese spoke of his confidence that United would get at least one of those deals over the line, but that now looks increasingly unlikely as Thursday’s 5pm deadline comes into sight.
Mourinho warned that United would face a “difficult season” if they did not strengthen before the window shuts, with centre-back an area that they had been keen to improve.
England’s World Cup star Harry Maguire has been among the main targets this summer, but Leicester have repeatedly made it clear that the defender is not for sale.
The Foxes are ready to stand firm in the face of any late bid despite closing in on defensive reinforcements that include Freiburg’s Caglar Soyuncu, who United had been tracking this summer.
Press Association Sport understands that an offer has yet to be tabled for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, while United’s keenness in imposing Barcelona defender Yerry Mina is tempered by prohibitive financial demands.
Yerry Mina shone at the World Cup for Colombia (Tim Goode/PA)
So impressive for Colombia at the World Cup, the agent fees that come with signing the towering centre-back are proving a roadblock as the 23-year-old also attracts interest from Everton and Lyon.
The deal does not appear to be dead just yet and Jerome Boateng is another option, although Bayern Munich are not understood to be keen to sanction a loan deal that United would like.
The 29-year-old established himself as one of the world’s best defenders after joining the German giants in 2011 from Manchester City, but has struggled with injuries in recent years.
Few could blame United for being burned by Bayern given Bastian Schweinsteiger and Owen Hargreaves’ struggles for fitness during their time at the club.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s Old Trafford stay was brief (Martin Rickett/PA)
Mourinho’s side have also looked at, among others, the likes of Jose Gimenez, Milan Skriniar and Kalidou Koulibaly over a summer that has seen some Premier League rivals strengthen notably.
The United boss is due to face the media on Thursday morning to preview the Premier League opener against Leicester, but talk is sure to be dominated by transfers given the window shuts at 5pm.
Other major European leagues have the rest of the month to complete their business, which is part of the reason why United voted against an early end to the Premier League window.
“Obviously when the decision is not uniform around Europe, we are opening an element of disadvantage for the English clubs,” Mourinho said last September.
Jose Mourinho was not a fan of the decision to close the transfer window early (Martin Rickett/PA)
“That was the reason why Manchester United voted against it, because there is an element of disadvantage.
“There will be a moment where the market is closed for us but it is open for the others.
“Obviously they can come to the English clubs, they can buy players and they can leave English clubs without the possibility of a quick action, of a quick response, so it’s another element of weakness.
“I hope, I expect, my club to be strong enough and powerful enough that when the market closes for us, we can also close our doors and say, ‘It doesn’t matter (what) the offer (is), we’ve closed the market to buy and to sell’.
“I expect my club to be acting that way so we are going to reduce that element of weakness, but there are other English clubs that will be at risk.”