Manchester United will attempt to land two forwards should Cristiano Ronaldo leave the club, with the summer departure of one of their greatest players becoming increasingly likely.
Erik ten Hag, the United manager, claimed Ronaldo’s attitude during last weekend’s defeat at Brentford was as poor as his team-mates’ and also refused to confirm that he will be at the club when the transfer window closes in a fortnight.
While Ten Hag insisted the 37-year-old remains part of his plans, sources at the club believe he could leave in the next fortnight. The major obstacle for any move for a player of Ronaldo’s profile is a deal to cover his salary, which is more than £400,000-a-week.
United have been desperately trying to add attacking players to Ten Hag’s squad and will attempt to land two forwards should Ronaldo leave. As reported by Telegraph Sport, they are targeting PSV’s Cody Gakpo as Brazil international Antony has proved difficult to get out of Ajax.
Atletico Madrid forward Yannick Carrasco is also on their list of targets and there are admirers at the club of Everton’s Anthony Gordon, who has been subject of a bid from Chelsea, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby.
With no Champions League football, persuading players to join Ten Hag’s team will be the biggest task for United. They have secured Casemiro from Real Madrid as a high-profile defensive midfielder.
"He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity. The club understand it, with all he's done for this club and the person he is, we have to respect it," said Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti.
"I haven't tried to convince him, I just listened, because I have spoken to Casemiro throughout my time here and he has helped us so much. Having heard what he wants, there's no way back. If he doesn't stay, we'll have an enormous sense of gratitude to him for all he's done."
Ten Hag is looking for a change in attitude from his players when they face Liverpool on Monday, with Ronaldo not exempt from criticism for the 4-0 defeat at Brentford.
"I don't know why he's a particular focus after Saturday, it was the team performance, the whole team's attitude, including Ronaldo," said Ten Hag.
In an interview with Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher for Sky's Monday Night Football, to be broadcast ahead of the Liverpool game, Ten Hag was asked for his reaction to Ronaldo saying he would "tell the truth" about his situation on social media in two weeks' time.
"I don't know what he wants to achieve with that," Ten Hag said.
Asked whether it would send a message for Ten Hag to sell Ronaldo if he does not want to be at the club, the manager replied: "That's not what he's telling us."
Ten Hag, who also admitted on Sky that he could have "taken off 11 players" at half-time at Brentford, urged his side to improve their attitude.
"It starts with yourself, act as a team, follow the rules and principles and work hard, as hard as you can maximise and if you do that you can get confidence. Obviously, a lot went wrong (against Brentford) but we don't have to talk about anything when the attitude is not right."