If the latest Manchester United transfer gossip is true, the Red Devils could make a title charge

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It all seemed so absurd back in August.

Manchester United was coming off its worst season in ages, and had brought in Louis van Gaal to clean up the mess left behind from Alex Ferguson’s faulty choice of David Moyes as Red Devils boss.

Pegged to spend big money, huge names were being linked with United. We heard names like Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao, all set to join a gifted roster with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

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And while some names didn’t materialize at Old Trafford, many did. Now halfway through the season, United’s injury-beset crew has still managed a somewhat surprising third-place start.

The Red Devils are nine points back of Man City and suddenly beatable Chelsea with the January transfer window open and if the gossip rags are anywhere near right, LVG is going to make a title challenge in Year One.

Manchester United needs depth at defense, as stopgap measures can get you to third but won’t get you past Chelsea and City. Frankly, United failed to adequately replace Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic despite knowing they’d be gone for a while.

Now, it seems, they have answers.

The Express says both Benedikt Howedes and Mats Hummels are looking to get away from their German clubs to find homes at Old Trafford. Again, it’s gossip, but if true United would instantly become a true threat to the throne room.

Currently at Borussia Dortmund, Hummels just turned 26 and is quite simply one of the finest complete defenders in the world. A World Cup champion, there are no real flaws to his game and nothing in his repertoire that would seemingly fail to adjust quickly to the Premier League.

Also 26, Howedes would arrive at United from Schalke with less fanfare but nearly as much talent. Another member of Germany’s World Cup squad, their paired arrival could make for an even easier transition.

Say they picked up both center backs. Imagine the set-up, even in a not-so-LVG 4-4-2:

De Gea

Rojo—Hummels—Howedes—Shaw

Young—Blind—-Herrera—-Di Maria

Rooney—van Persie

The bench? Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling, Token backup keeper.

And LVG would have more competition for places on the training ground, with Rafael, Jonny Evans, and Darren Fletcher grinding just to make the 18.

Obviously picking up Howedes and Hummels is easier said than done, but what a stroke of rich genius — pun intended on the wealthy adjective — it would be for United.

Financial Fair Play problem? Maybe, but bet against them? I wouldn’t.