Roma's Kevin Strootman remains highly sought after by Manchester United fans. The 24-year-old defensive midfielder is known to be a firm favourite of Red Devils' head coach Louis van Gaal, and many expect him to make his interest official throughout the upcoming transfer window.
Said to have made a gentleman's agreement with van Gaal, prior to the former Netherlands head coach's arrival at Old Trafford, the footballing world still anticipates a Manchester-bound flight, delivering the Dutch national side's youngest ever captain in the not too distant future.
Nevertheless, following comments made in recent days regarding the player's importance throughout the second half of the season, Roma head coach Rudi Garcia looks to have crushed the Red Devils' hopes of signing their long-term target, for now at least.
Strootman has been working his way back to fitness following a knee injury from last season which saw him miss the World Cup, and having recently returned to action, Garcia predicts that he will be key for the Italian giants in the second half of the season.
It has been a steady come-back for the Dutchman, but his performance in Roma's 1-0 victory over Udinese will only have served to heighten the attention he is receiving.
In a tight affair, Strootman cut a world-class figure, displaying all the qualities that United will be looking for in a potential midfield commander. Defensively he was resolute, making two tackles, two interceptions and three clearances, while he also found success in four aerial duels.
Playing on the left side of Roma's central midfield trio, he fulfilled his basic duties with aplomb. His distribution was superb, as he completed 89% of his intended passes, and he offered a creative presence, fashioning two goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates.
As Strootman continues to find his form in Serie A, there's no doubt Manchester United supporters will be watching with intrigue. Based on the admiration van Gaal holds for him, you sense that Strootman remains one of few missing pieces in the Dutch tactician's Old Trafford puzzle.