KARL Robinson has given his clearest indication yet that Oxford United are close to signing Marcus McGuane on a permanent deal.

The U’s head coach spoke cryptically about targeting a former player after Monday’s defeat to Accrington Stanley and later mentioned the midfielder.

McGuane’s season-long loan from Nottingham Forest was cut short when he injured his thigh early in the 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers on January 23.

Robinson feels United have lacked power in midfield since they lost the 22-year-old, but hopes to have him back next season.

Read also: Karl Robinson hints at Marcus McGuane move

He said: “Everyone knows how much I want him back here.

“He wants to be back here as well.

“We’re working extremely hard and hopefully we can have some news on him.

“He’s certainly a player that we know the owners want.

“We know Notts Forest are happy with it and we’re happy with what we think we can get out of the deal.

“Hopefully in the next seven days we can have some news.”

United would have to pay a fee to sign McGuane, with the former Arsenal and Barcelona player under contract at Forest until next year.

The youngster joined the U’s last August and started slowly, but became an influential presence towards the end of 2020.

The verdict: Oxford United lost midfield battle against Accrington

McGuane did not score in his 21 appearances, but claimed four assists and was a key part of United’s three-man midfield during the early stages of their record-breaking nine-match winning run.

A setback in his recovery in February saw the U’s No 18 placed on a 12-week recovery programme, effectively ruling him out for the season.

United have won just seven of their 18 Sky Bet League One games since McGuane’s last appearance and Robinson believes his absence has hindered their faltering play-off push.

He said on Monday: “I put a big responsibility down to when we lost Marcus, our performances have been a lot more inconsistent.

“Moving forward, we’ve got to get the right players in and don’t lose players.”