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United chase £32m defender

aymeric-laporte-est-desormais-lie-avec-le-club-basque_1523380_800x400Manchester United look set to test Athletic Bilbao’s resolve in January with an offer for 20-year-old defender Aymeric Laporte, who’s also on Arsenal and Chelsea’s radar.

According to reports in some of today’s newspapers, United have moved ahead of their rivals in the chase for the young centre-back after contacting Athletic via intermediaries – here’s hoping they weren’t the same who tried to finalise the deal for Ander Herrera in the summer of 2013 – as Louis Van Gaal looks to bolster his defensive options.

United have allegedly already set the wheels in motion ahead of the January transfer window, with Ed Woodward working on a list of targets, which contradicts reports that last week claimed Van Gaal would not spend a penny in winter. Whether the United manager will or will not tap into the market in winter remains to be seen, but he’s likely to have given Woodward a list of names United must look to if they’re serious about solving their defensive crisis.

Laporte might well be one of them, as the France U21 international has emerged as one of Europe’s brightest centre-back, helping Bilbao to finish fourth last season as the Basque outfit reached the Champions League and, despite his young age, he’s already made 59 appearances for his club.

The Frenchman has been tipped for a bright future and is widely expected to break into the senior team in time for the 2016 European Championship but, for all his talent, his £32m release clause would make him look like a bit of a gamble, particularly given United’s recent record when it comes to sign young centre-backs.

Of course, with Marcos Rojo and Jonny Evans injured and Chris Smalling and Phil Jones looking miles away from being the sort of reliable defenders a team of United’s stature requires, Van Gaal might well be forced into action in January.