Manchester United are continuing to work on reinforcing their squad after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attended their latest recruitment meeting last week.
The United technical chief scout Mick Court drafted up a shortlist of targets in January and the director of football negotiations Matt Judge has held dialogue with various players’ representatives in recent months.
Real Madrid are prepared to sell Varane, 28, to United in order to obtain a fee rather than losing the Frenchman on a free next summer. Dortmund have slashed their asking price for Sancho, 21, from £108m last year to around £80million but Rice, 22, would be pricier as he has three years left on his West Ham contract and is also admired by Chelsea and Manchester City.
Any discussions with Sancho’s representatives were on hold until the Bundesliga season ended and the winger is now with the England squad in Middlesbrough, preparing for their European Championship warm-up friendlies with Austria and Romania. Sancho’s Dortmund contract runs until 2023.
The United squad returned to Manchester in the early hours of Thursday morning after their Europa League final defeat to Villarreal and Solskjaer was present at a forward-planning meeting later that day.
The United assistant manager Mike Phelan was in attendance with Solskjaer and the football director John Murtough during the meeting. The football director role appealed to Phelan following his return to United two years ago but Solskjaer wanted him to remain his assistant.
A compromise was struck when Phelan who, unusually for an assistant manager, does not preside over training sessions, was invited to have input on recruitment. Phelan specifically endorsed the £80m move for Harry Maguire, who worked with him at Hull.
Villarreal defender Pau Torres impressed against United last week and the Spain international was named on United’s five-man shortlist of centre-back targets. Varane remains the most desirable option as United want an experienced partner for Maguire.
Solskjaer stressed the need for United to improve their squad if they are to challenge for the Premier League title next season, with a minimum of three first-team signings targeted.
“I’ve been delighted with the effort, the desire, the determination of all of the players, I can’t fault them at all,” Solskjaer said. “We’ve probably done as well as anyone could imagine.
“We are here now, we need to do better, we need to work better, work harder, cleverer. But, as I said, two or three players to strengthen the starting XI and the squad all together is important for us to go even further.
“Because I’m sure our contenders or challengers will also want to improve and we want to improve as much as we can.”
City, Liverpool and Chelsea – the other top four finishers in the league – are all managed by Champions League-winning coaches.