Everton manager Roberto Martinez has dismissed the possibility of left-back Leighton Baines moving to Manchester United in January.
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United boss David Moyes was keen to take Baines, 28, with him after leaving the Toffees to take charge at Old Trafford at the end of last season.
Moyes had three offers for the England international turned down, however, but is expected to return with a fourth in January.
Martinez, though, sees Baines as a key figure in his bid to build on Everton’s solid start to the season.
The defender is out of action with a fractured toe sustained during last Saturday’s 3-3 Premier League draw with neighbours Liverpool at Goodison Park, and could be absent until January.
However, Martinez is hopeful that Baines will be back sooner than that, but has dismissed the notion that his Goodison Park career is coming to an end.
“Has Leighton played his last game for us? I don’t see it that way at all, especially given where we are -- not at all,” he told the Liverpool Daily Post.
“If I assess the season so far, we have got fewer points than our performances deserved, so we are very close to getting a bigger average of points between now and the end of the season.
“If we do that, then we have a great opportunity to achieve our aims, and so in that situation you can imagine we would never try to sell players in this January window.
“In January, if we do anything it will be to try and improve the squad, to give a better opportunity to our players to finish strong.”
Martinez, whose side host Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday, is looking to strengthen his squad in January.
Everton have suffered fewer Premier League defeats than anyone else this season, losing just one game out of 12.
However, they have been held back by a total of six draws, meaning they go into the Stoke clash lying seventh, three points behind second-placed Liverpool.
A key part of Martinez’s push to improve that league position will be ensuring that he retains strength in depth to protect against likely injuries and suspensions.
And that is why, despite reports linking both striker Nikica Jelavic and defender John Heitinga with January moves away from Goodison Park, Martinez is reluctant to let anyone go unless he can bring in cover.
“I don’t see, as a club, that we need to take the opportunity in the January window to try to balance the books -- I can guarantee that is not the case,” he said.
“Everything that is going to happen in January is going to be football-related, and whatever it is, it is going to be good for the squad. It doesn’t mean we are going to sell players or not, what we are going to do is make the club and the squad stronger.
“So you get opportunities, but not big signings. I don’t see it as a window of big signings in terms of finances. I expect we would try to find one or two players who can help us around the edges.”