What do Moyes' scouting missions reveal about his January plans at Manchester United?

Manchester United manager David Moyes has been spotted all around Europe this month but what do his scouting missions reveal about his plans for the transfer window?

Last weekend the Scot watched Juventus’ 4-1 victory over Cagliari then this week he was spotted in France as Paris Saint-Germain won 3-1 over Bordeaux. Then he was claimed to be traveling back to Italy to see Napoli’s draw with Atalanta. Meanwhile, Phil Neville just happened to be in Spain as Rayo Vallecano beat Getafe.

Its all systems go by the looks of it at Old Trafford or, more precisely, everywhere but Old Trafford as Moyes makes his mind up on his targets. Let’s start with Juventus – the likes of former United midfielder Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal will, of course, be the subject of speculation given that we know from the summer targets that Moyes is keen to bring in a creative midfielder.

I wouldn’t expect it to be Pogba, given the number of times he has poured cold water all over rumours he could return to Old Trafford and the length of time left on his contract which runs until 2016.

Vidal, however, is another thing all together – on the one hand his contract runs until 2017 but on the other he is one of the most gifted midfielders on the continent at present and his 26 years of age make him more mature and experienced at the level Moyes will likely require to improve the champions chances this term. We know the money is there for Moyes to spend so even the £40 million United might have to pay would not be an issue – the main stumbling block would be Juventus’ reluctance to let the Chilean go.

Then again, perhaps all the rumours are wrong and Moyes was actually watching a Cagliari player – perhaps a defender to plug the gaping hole that could be left in United’s back line by captain Nemanja Vidic whose agent revealed last week would not be extending his contract with the Premier League champions this summer.

Davide Astori could be that man – at 27, he is experienced, his tactical understanding is very good and his value is around £10 million. Or perhaps Moyes was shopping for defenders in Paris instead – his well documented quest to sign a left fullback could be hinging upon PSG youngster Lucas Digne but, given that the 20-year-old Frenchman has only just arrived at the Parc des Princes last year I would be more inclined to think Moyes was looking at another midfielder in Javier Pastore.

The Argentine has been linked with a move away from the French capital and at 24, he’s about the ideal age to make a move, especially ahead of the World Cup this summer, given that he is not playing as often as he’d like for PSG.

At around £20 million, he would be cheaper option to the likes of Vidal as would his PSG teammate Blaise Matuidi who is valued around the same price bracket but, crucially, whose contract expires this summer. He could be exactly the kind of player Moyes will be hoping to sign this month.

The big name being discussed from Moyes’ trip to Naples is, of course, Marek Hamsik, who is undoubtedly one of the most gifted and creative playmakers in Europe but his contract runs until 2016, he would cost a huge amount of money – even to make Napoli consider letting him leave would be upwards of £40 million I would imagine. I think its far more likely Moyes was looking at a player like Lorenzo Insigne.

Although the 22-year-old’s contract runs until 2018, he is valued around £13 million and Moyes could consider him the ideal replacement for a winger and forward player like Nani who is expected to be making an exit in the near future, however as a real fan favourite at Napoli again it will be difficult to convince them to sell.

Phil Neville’s trip to Spain is a bit of a puzzle – the only Rayo Vallecano player I can see United being even remotely interested in is Saul Niguez who is actually an Atletico Madrid player on loan. The 19-year-old is, however, more of a holding midfielder than an attacking midfielder but there is also the on loan Jonathan Viera of Valencia who has been firing and assisting this term on the flanks for Rayo. Maybe Moyes is looking to acquire the next Michu in the 24-year-old.

I think, however, he could well have been looking at a Getafe player – Argentine centre-back Lisandro Lopez currently on loan from Benfica. He could be considered the successor in Benfica’s back line to Ezequiel Garay whom United were linked with in the summer. There is a chance Moyes could be looking to swipe the £5 million-rated Lopez up and develop him at United.

But, of all Getafe’s talent, the man in the spotlight is undoubtedly playmaker Pablo Sarabia – the 21-year-old is hailed as the next big thing in Spain and he is still remarkably inexpensive at present (around £2.5 million) and could be regarded as the kind of Koke signing the Red Devils have been linked with in recent months.

Of all the scouting missions, I think we can expect that Moyes will sign a midfielder and a centre-back this month and I think he may surprise some with his purchase of younger players he can develop for the future like Insigne, Lopez and Sarabia rather than ready-made players like Vidal, Astori and Hamsik.

images: © Romana Correale, © calciostreaming

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