Manchester United handed transfer ultimatum for £30m centre back target

Roma have reportedly told Manchester United that any deal for defender Mehdi Benatia must be completed by Sunday.

United's season got off to a disappointing start, as Swansea City won 2-1 at Old Trafford to hand new manager Louis van Gaal a defeat in his first Premier League game in charge. There were plenty of problems in the patchwork Red Devils starting XI, but the defence remains a huge concern given that youngster Tyler Blackett was forced to start the game after injury to Jonny Evans.

Alongside Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Michael Keane, Blackett is one of just five centre backs in the United squad - and given that van Gaal is determined to use the 3-4-1-2 system that served him so well with the Netherlands at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, more central defenders are certainly needed.

Sporting Lisbon's Marcos Rojo remains a key target as a potential left sided centre back after the collapse of United's bid for ex-Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen, but one world class centre back is needed too. A deal for Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels looks all but impossible, leaving Roma's Mehdi Benatia as their top target.

The Moroccan, 27, was the lynchpin of a mean Roma defence last season following his move from Udinese a year ago, and his exceptional displays in Italy have attracted interest from the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City - but speculation over the weekend suggested that a £30m deal to bring Benatia to Old Trafford was close.

That doesn't appear to be the case, but amidst interest from a whole host of clubs, it's now being reported that Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini has issued an ultimatum to United - pay up the £30m by Sunday, August 24th - or the deal is off completely.

Roma want at least a week to bring in a replacement before the transfer deadline, and Sunday is the absolute latest they would be willing to sell their star defender. £30m is a huge fee and with the clock ticking, United need to make their mind up over Benatia.

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