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Manchester United linked with moves for Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte

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Manchester United could be lining up transfer attempts for Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, as early as January.

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Demonstrating just how far Manchester United have fallen, Louis van Gaal has been touting Chris Smalling as a future United captain. That's in the Guardian, and, well, what a sorry state of affairs.

Mark Ogden correctly appraises why Wayne Rooney will never be truly loved by Manchester United fans - because he decided he wanted to join Manchester City. His reasons - that United were a fading force - were ultimately proved correct, but joining your closest rivals is unacceptable behaviour. That's in the Telegraph.

The Mirror's transfer round-up says that United are interested in Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte. United have been interested in him for two seasons now, so it would be no surprise if something gets sorted eventually. They certainly need a new central defender - probably two.

Matching that story is one in the Manchester Evening News that says that Van Gaal and United could keep spending in the winter transfer window. They could certainly do with at least one left-sided defender this season, and a striker if possible.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea. Lionel Messi. Apparently Messi is not happy with the way the Catalan investigators take umbrage at possible tax fraud, and wants to leave for England. Given the EU's extradition relationships, that doesn't make any sense at all, but nevertheless the Sun thinks United are interested.