Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has played down suggestions that goalkeeper David De Gea could leave Old Trafford when his current contract expires in summer 2016.
The Dutch tactician has helped intensify speculation surrounding the 24-year-old Spanish star by drafting in his compatriot Victor Valdes on a free contract this week.
However Van Gaal insisted that the arrival of the former Barcelona shot-stopper, who had been training at Carrington following a long-term injury, was to boost competition for the number one jersey and not to pave the way clear to sell De Gea.
“I think there is no problem for (De Gea) to sign,” he said. “When you are a (regular) player, then probably you are the best, and then the manager is very happy that a player that is fixed in the line-up will stay.”
Indeed Van Gaal has thrown down the gauntlet to Valdes to try and challenge the in-form De Gea for his place in the team.
He added: “Nobody is happy to be No 2 and he has to have ambition to beat David De Gea – but it shall be very hard for him.
“David de Gea has developed himself in the six months that I’ve been here very much. I’m very pleased with his development.”
De Gea had been linked with a move to Real Madrid following an exceptional first half to this Premier League season in which he has pulled off several match-winning saves to keep United firmly in the hunt for a top-four Champions League finish.
Third-placed United are priced at 1.84 to defeat fourth-placed Southampton at Old Trafford on Sunday, with the Saints at 4.15 and the draw at 3.50.