Louis van Gaal has admitted that his summer priority is to recruit a world-class midfielder who will enable Wayne Rooney to return to his favoured attacking position at Man-chester United.
Van Gaal, whose team face Preston North End in an FA Cup fifth?round tie at Deepdale tonight (Monday), has deployed Rooney in a central mid-field role since the turn of the year in an effort to ease concerns over an imbalance of options in that key area.
The United manager considered a move for the Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal last summer before abandoning plans to sign the Chilean due to concerns over the player's recent knee injury.
Van Gaal is also monitoring the performances of the Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman - who is sidelined with a knee injury- and Paul Pogba, the French midfielder who left United in 2012 to sign for Juventus.
With Rooney failing to register a shot on target in 2015, however, Van Gaal has admitted that the England captain, 29, is only a short-term solution to a long-standing problem at United. When asked whether his main objective this summer is to sign a commanding midfielder, Van Gaal said, "Yes, of course. Of course that's the case. I'm looking for balance and I need it in midfield.
"In the last games, I played with Adnan Januzaj and Angel Di Maria in the midfield positions and you need a certain balance for those kind of creative players. So when you have these creative players and you think that [Radamel] Falcao and [Robin] van Persie are also creative, then you have four creative players. Then you have to look for balance in your team."
Despite Rooney's diminished goal threat in midfield - his goal drought now stands at nine games, dating back to his two goals against Newcastle United on Boxing Day - Van Gaal insisted that the United captain was not troubled by playing out of position.
"He is happy," he said. "Otherwise he should come to me and say he's not happy. But he never does. He is always friendly to me. He wants to perform what I want, so that's what I see. Of course, when the whole world is writing that he has to be in the striker's position, he will be thinking, 'Maybe, hey'. But he's human."