Manchester United may offer competition to Real Madrid in the pursuit of Gareth Bale this week with Tottenham Hotspur seemingly more receptive to the English champions having become deeply frustrated by negotiations with the Spanish side.

United have not made a firm offer for Bale and as the transfer window enters its last three weeks they will be acutely aware of any attempt to use them as a way of flushing out a serious bid from the Bernabeu at a time when Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is beginning to doubt whether the Spaniards actually possess the funds.

But United's failure to land a big-money signing this summer may persuade them to make a huge investment to deliver the boost which is badly needed at the start of the David Moyes era as well as goals and momentum. The failure to secure a marquee name has only amplified the noise created by Wayne Rooney and his desire to leave.

The odds are stacked against such a deal coming to fruition. The impediments to United securing Bale include Spurs' valuation which is believed to be around £110m though the appeal of Javier Hernandez to the north London club could conceivably help in that department. It is also unclear whether United would be able to agree personal terms with Bale. They have been reluctant throughout about the prospect of being strung along by Levy a frustrating sparring partner in the acquisition of Michael Carrick in 2006 and Dimitar Berbatov two years later. But that sentiment may have changed now that the summer has brought no new big name.

Moyes insisted Rooney is staying at Old Trafford and his determination to hold on to the unhappy England striker was easy to understand after watching Manchester United labour to a 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic of the Championship in the Community Shield. United dominated possession but the provenance of Robin van Persie's goals – an unmarked long-range header and a deflected shot – underlined their lack of creativity. Rooney of course was absent with a shoulder injury.