In Depth

Man Utd: stressed Van Gaal eyes Otamendi and Hummels

Old Trafford boss wants more reinforcements at the back as he admits that job is his biggest test

On the day when Louis van Gaal admitted he was facing probably the toughest time of his illustrious managerial career, the Daily Star reports that Manchester United are "weighing up" a possible bid for Valencia defender Nicolas Otamendi. With the Red Devils defence failing to purr so far this season Van Gaal is reportedly targeting the 26-year-old  Otamendi as one of his first new year buys. Though he only joined Valencia last February from Portuguese giants FC Porto, the Argentina defender is believed to be up for sale having been loaned out recently to Brazilian outfit Atletico Mineiro.

The Star says Van Gaal hasn't yet given up hope of prising centre-back Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund but he believes his back four needs bolstering with more than just one new face.

Meanwhile the Daily Express declares that extravagantly-coiffured Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik "could be heading for the Stadio San Paolo exit" as speculation mounts that manager Rafa Benitez will be sacked. Benitez could get the bullet because of the Italian club's poor start to the season and reports in the local media tip former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini to be his successor. The managerial uncertainty, allied to what the Express calls Napoli's "precarious financial position", will likely lead the club to offload Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain in order to raise an estimated £65m in funds.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United have all been linked to Hamsik in the past while Arsenal are known to have expressed an interest in signing Argentine striker Higuain last season.

Elsewhere and Talksport reports that Everton manager Roberto Martinez has dismissed suggestions that Ross Barkley could soon be on his way to Manchester City. The 20-year-old England midfielder is currently sidelined with a knee injury but that hasn't stopped rumours emerging in recent days to the effect the Sky Blues will come calling in January. But when the allegations were put to Martinez the Toffees boss replied tartly: "It's a rumour and we'll leave it there. We've spoken enough in the past about potential interest and I always mention the same - we take it as a footballing compliment and we'll move on."

In other news the official Swansea City website has announced that winger Wayne Routledge has signed a one-year contract extension. The 29-year-old wideman joined Swansea in 2011 from Newcastle and though his contact wasn't set to expire until 2017 the former England Under-21 international has decided to commit himself to the Liberty Stadium until 2018. "He deserves it because in my time here he's probably been our most consistent performer – and he's still performing," declared Swans gaffer Garry Monk.

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