Manchester United have missed out on Renato Sanches – but what does it mean long term for fans at Old Trafford?
United have spent much of the current campaign monitoring the progress of Benfica midfielder Sanches, following his meteoric rise at the Stadium of Light.
Despite only making his Eagles debut in October, the 18-year-old has been a mainstay in Rui Vitoria’s midfield and has already picked up two senior caps for his country.
That has led a host of scouts to the Portuguese capital, but United still believed themselves to be in pole position for his signature this summer, with Benfica holding out for a total £63million outlay.
However Bayern Munich, impressed by the midfielder in their Champions League quarter-final clash with Benfica, have swooped, making Sanches the fourth- most expensive teenager of all-time.
A deal has quickly been closed between the top brass of the respective clubs and the player’s agent, a certain Jorge Mendes.
Mendes is also the agent of prospective United boss Jose Mourinho, who has long been keen on the manager’s job at Old Trafford.
But while a union between the three-time Premier League winner and the Red Devils has long been mooted, still no deal has been forthcoming – Louis van Gaal , meanwhile, has grown increasingly emboldened in his position, believing he will see out the third year of his contract.
According rports, Van Gaal vetoed a move for Sanches in favour of pursuing other transfer targets in the clearest indication yet that he could stay on as Manchester United manager beyond the summer.
United had scouted Sanches extensively and held advanced talks with Benfica and the 18-year-old’s agent, Jorge Mendes, but senior sources at Old Trafford told Telegraph Sport on Tuesday afternoon that the club had backed away from a deal in February.
It is thought that Van Gaal was unwilling to pursue a deal at that price and that he has other midfield targets that he has asked the club to chase instead.
Some will regard that as an exercise in damage limitation on United’s part and sources close to the Sanches camp have suggested that the Manchester club ended up losing out on the player because they dragged their heels and were undermined by the lack of clarity over Van Gaal’s future.
“The problem with United at the moment is indecision,” one source said. “They don’t do the steps to get what they want. They leave it indefinitely and at some point lose everything.”
But it would be a surprising move by United if they allowed Van Gaal to block a move for Sanches, a leading target for whom they had put in tremendous groundwork, in the knowledge that a few months down the line they would be sacking the Dutchman.
United will guarantee qualification for the Champions League if they win their final two league games, starting against West Ham at Upton Park tonight and concluding with Bournemouth on Sunday. They then play Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final a week on Saturday.
United have an agreement in principle with Mourinho, but nothing has been signed and unless the club opt to formally press ahead with that it holds little meaning. Van Gaal’s prospects of staying had appeared slim and Mourinho has been confident of taking over at Old Trafford but the Dutchman said recently that he had been working on transfer plans for the summer and has long maintained that his future is a question for the club’s hierarchy.
So is this the end of the United-Mourinho talk? Surely Mendes would have played a waiting game over Sanches if Mourinho was heading to Old Trafford.
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