Manchester United target £60m Dortmund striker Aubameyang as speculation around Van Gaal's future continues
As Louis van Gaal heads into what could be a make-or-break week as manager of Manchester United, the club are to pursue a £60m deal for Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer, regardless of who is in charge next season.
United, who travel to League One Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fifth round tonight (7.45pm) fresh from last Thursday’s humiliating Europa League defeat to Danish minnows FC Midtjylland, are determined to bolster their attacking options, having failed to score in 10 of their 39 games in all competitions this season.
Van Gaal’s team, who are struggling to qualify for the Champions League for next season, face a return leg against Midtjylland on Thursday and Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.
There was further speculation linking the former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho with the Old Trafford job over the weekend and Van Gaal has admitted that the club’s poor showing this season means that they have now lost the fear factor for opposition teams.
Efforts have already been made to move United into pole position in the race to sign Aubameyang, who is also a leading target for Arsenal.
The 26-year-old has scored 31 goals in 34 appearances for Dortmund this season, with the Gabon international edging out Yaya Touré to be crowned as African Footballer of the Year last month.
While United have previously been reluctant to sign African players owing to the prospect of losing their services for up to six weeks every two years to African Cup of Nations commitments, the club is now ready to widen its net to ensure every possible target is considered.
With Aubameyang's status growing both in Africa and Europe, United have stressed their ability to develop the France-born forward's image and commercial power should he move to Old Trafford.
Growing doubts over the future of Van Gaal will not affect United's interest in Aubameyang, however, with the club accepting the need to make progress on summer recruitment before a decision is made on the Dutchman.
United laid the groundwork on deals for Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera before Van Gaal was appointed as David Moyes' successor in May 2014 and, although any manager will have the final say on transfer signings, the chief scout Jim Lawlor has been left to press ahead with plans to identify summer signings.
With Wayne Rooney facing six weeks out of action with a knee injury and Van Gaal sanctioning the departures of Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Javier Hernandez at the end of last season, United's attacking options are now reduced to teenagers Anthony Martial and Will Keane, with winger Memphis Depay and midfielder Marouane Fellaini set to be considered as emergency forwards.