Manchester United would appear to be lining up long-term replacements for veteran center-back Rio Ferdinand. The 34-year-oldâ€™s contract is set to expire in the summer and he has been offered a one-year extension by United. But regardless of whether Ferdinand agrees to extend his 11-year stay at Old Trafford, recent reports suggest that Ferguson is preparing for the future.
According to the Independent, United are continuing to pursue Saint-Etienneâ€™s 18-year-old defender Kurt Zouma. The highly-rated France Under-19 international, who is believed to have been tracked since last summer, was set to be watched by United chief scout Martin Ferguson against Lille last week.
Despite his tender years, Zouma has already established himself as a regular at the back for the Ligue 1 side. The Independent reports that Zouma is currently in negotiations over a new contract, although that may merely be an effort by the club to ensure that they maximize any transfer fee they receive for the player. Queens Park Rangers were reportedly quoted a figure of ÂŁ10 million in their attempts to sign him last summer.
While Ferdinandâ€™s fitness has been an issue for some time, there are also doubts about his regular partner at the back Nemanja Vidic. Like Ferdinand, Vidicâ€™s fitness has been managed carefullyâ€”since his return from a second serious knee injury in the space of a year. It may well be that Ferguson is keen to bring a more experienced defender into the fold.
As well as Zouma, the Independent also claims that Manchester United scouts have been deployed to check on Benficaâ€™s Ezequiel Garay. The Argentina international, 26, has often been linked to United over recent seasons.
After a disappointing spell at Real Madrid, Garay has proven a big hit in Portugal and United could be considering a summer move. Rated at ÂŁ15 million, Garay could well be available in the summer with Benfica needing to shift him off the wage bill.
Unitedâ€™s interest in Garay is backed up by the Sunday People, with the publication also furthering speculation about a possible move to Old Trafford for Torino central defender Angelo Ogbonna. The 24-year-old is a regular in the Italian national squad and has also been linked to some of Serie Aâ€™s leading clubs as well as the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton in England.
In other news, there may soon be some movement involving reported United transfer target Victor Wanyamaâ€”if the head of the Kenyan Football Association is to be believed. The Celtic midfielder is said to be firmly on the radars of both United and Arsenal after excelling since his move from Belgian side Beerschot in the summer of 2011. That interest is likely to have only increased after Wanyamaâ€™s performances in the Champions League this season.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has said that he values the 21-year-old Kenyan at ÂŁ25 million, although a fee closer to ÂŁ10 million may be sufficient to take him away from the Scottish champions.
According to Kenyan FA president Sam Nyamweya, Wanyamaâ€™s departure will be sooner rather than later.
â€śWanyama will soon be joining one of the big two clubs in the world,â€ť he said, according to the Scotsman. â€śIt is an exciting moment for us, which means that Kenya is a powerhouse in football.â€ť
The comments appear to point toward a move to Manchester United, although a deal is unlikely to transpire before the end of Januaryâ€™s transfer window. Indeed, a move in the summer may make sense for all parties. Celtic would doubtless be keen to retain Wanyama for their Champions League tie with Juventus and potentially beyond, while the clubâ€™s continued involvement in the competition means that Wanyama would be cup-tied if he were to join United.