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REAL MADRID

Gareth Bale: Manchester United reportedly stepping up pursuit

Gareth Bale: Manchester United reportedly stepping up pursuit

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The Manchester Evening News says United are set on Bale, who has been tipped to stay at Real Madrid after Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo's exits.

Manchester United appear determined to secure the services of Gareth Bale.

With Bale tipped to take over from Cristiano Ronaldo as the focal point of the Real Madrid team in the wake of the Portugal captain's sale to Juventus this week, speculation over his future had momentarily died down. However, the Premier League club's sights seemingly remain firmly set on the 28-year-old.

Bale reportedly United's chief summer target

According to the Manchester Evening News, United manager José Mourinho and club chief executive Ed Woodward have made Bale the Red Devils' number-one summer transfer target. They are said to believe that the former Tottenham Hotspur star could well be the crucial piece in the jigsaw if the club are to add to their 20 English titles and become a contender in the Champions League again.

Having endured a difficult end to the season at Real, with former boss Zinedine Zidane leaving him out of all except one of Los Blancos' starting line-ups in the Champions League knockout stages, Bale looked all but certain to leave Madrid in the close season. However, the odds on him staying at Real have now shortened following his two-goal display against Liverpool in Kiev, and the subsequent departures of Zidane and Cristiano.

Ronaldo exit leaves Bale with chance to be Real's main man

It remains to be seen what signings Real will make this summer but, with Ronaldo gone, this may be Bale's chance to establish himself as the team's chief attacking figure - in what would be his sixth season at the club - and, despite the haul of goals and trophies that he has accumulated during his time in the Spanish capital, finally silence the doubters.

Nevertheless, United are firm admirers and a return to England could also be a good option for him. Woodward has had him on his wishlist since his appointment in 2013. Having already been targeted by United 12 months ago, this year saw Bale give his first public indication that he was ready to leave Real, telling a post-Champions League final interview that he needed to be playing "week in, week out". Now, though, the circumstances have changed.

Will be down to Real, Lopetegui to decide direction to take

The chief obstacle to his future at Real is his chequered injury record: in five seasons at Real, he has played just 14,047 out of a possible 26,430 minutes. It'll be down to the club and new coach Julen Lopetegui to decide whether to take that risk on Bale and make him their franchise player, or negotiate with United and focus on bringing in new star names this summer, with Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar all linked with Los Merengues.

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