LONDON • Manchester United insist they are happy to keep David de Gea after the goalkeeper's move to Real Madrid fell through yesterday, even though they risk losing him for nothing next summer.
However, missing out on the £18.3 million (S$39.6 million) sale is the least of the Red Devils' problems right now.
United manager Louis van Gaal's relationship with a number of players requires rebuilding - namely de Gea, fellow Spain stopper Victor Valdes and Argentine defender Marcos Rojo.
Club officials told ESPN FC yesterday that United are relaxed over the Spaniard's stay after his expected move to Real - with the Spanish club's £10.9 million-rated goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the other way - was scuppered when the paperwork did not arrive at the Spanish league before the midnight deadline on Monday.
Yet, it has been reported in the British media that it had been United, and not Real, who instigated the 11th-hour move over de Gea.
Why did the David de Gea deal collapse?
Because Real Madrid failed to register de Gea with the Spanish Football League before the midnight deadline, even though the transfer was officially logged with Fifa.
Whose fault is it?
Real claim Manchester United were dragging their heels during negotiations.
Could Real have salvaged the deal?
Precedents suggest there is no room for recourse. Real also did not lodge an appeal or seek intervention from Fifa.
This, despite United insisting all summer that he would leave only in a straight cash deal worth in excess of £32.6 million or as part of a package that brought defender Sergio Ramos to Old Trafford.
That speaks volumes about the club's concern over the state of mind of their Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons.
Van Gaal has also been openly critical of the 24-year-old's attitude since pre-season. But with current No. 1 Sergio Romero hardly convincing in Sunday's 1-2 Premier League loss at Swansea, de Gea is expected to be handed his first start this season sooner rather than later.
Van Gaal will also still have Valdes on the books after the 33-year-old's move to Turkish club Besiktas collapsed yesterday.
The former Barcelona man looked destined to head for the exit after van Gaal alleged that he refused to play for the club's Under-21 side last season.
Valdes hit back in a Twitter post but must now fight for his place in the squad.
The latest player to fall out with the manager is Rojo.
The player enraged the Dutchman during pre-season and was fined £140,000, after he failed to join up with United for their pre-season tour of North America because of passport issues.
According to the Daily Mail, tensions between the pair have not eased, with van Gaal raising concerns about the player's fitness.
The £16 million signing from Sporting Lisbon last summer was initially used as a makeweight in the deal to acquire Monaco forward Anthony Martial.
Rojo, 25, who has not been named in any of the Red Devils' squads this season, is unhappy at how he is being treated.
His Argentina team-mate Angel di Maria has already left Old Trafford after failing to see eye to eye with van Gaal.
The latter came to Manchester with a reputation as an authoritarian and strict disciplinarian. The former United winger had admitted that it was not easy to work for the Dutchman.
Di Maria scored three goals in his first four games following a British record £59.7 million move from Real. However, he suffered a two-month injury lay-off and failed to find the net again in the league.
"It is difficult to adapt to van Gaal because he points to his philosophy," the Paris Saint-Germain man told ESPN Radio in Argentina.
"I started very well with him and then had a couple of clashes.
"There came a time when I did not have a good relationship with van Gaal and that influences much in a player's mind.
"At Manchester United, I played very well but then got injured.
"Things did not work out and I also changed my position.
"The coach was the one who decided that and I ended up being more on the bench than in the team."
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON