According to the Manchester Evening News, Jose Mourinho wants to bring in a holding midfielder to get the best out of Paul Pogba. Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur was the Portuguese tactician's top target.
However, the belief at Old Trafford is that the Red Devils are unlikely to succeed in their approach for the England international. This has forced United to look elsewhere in the transfer market and they have identified Matic as an alternative to Dier.
Mourinho helped Chelsea re-sign the Serbian international from Benfica in January 2014. He provided the anchor to Cesc Fabregas in the Blues' title winning campaign in 2014/15 season.
Antonio Conte won the title in his first season with Chelsea and N'Golo Kante was influential in his side's midfield this term. The former Juventus and Italy manager is looking to bring in reinforcements as the Stamford Bridge outfit returns to the Champions League after a year's absence from the competition.
United believe the potential summer arrivals at Chelsea could convince Conte to sanction Matic's sale in the summer. Any move from the Red Devils for the 28-year-old midfielder will see the Red Devils spend excess of £40m ($52.4m).
Mourinho is now targeting a reunion with his former player at Old Trafford for the 2017/18 season. Matic earlier revealed that he considered leaving his current employers in the last summer transfer window. However, he changed his mind after he was convinced to continue at Chelsea.
The former Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager is also keen on signing Matic's teammate Willian from Chelsea. In addition to this, Burnely defender Michael Keane could be on his way back to United.
United have Michael Carrick as a player in the holding midfield position. His contract at Old Trafford runs down after the end of the season and if the reports are to be believed, the 35-year-old will be handed a new deal. The United manager wants to bring in a player who can be a long-term successor for Carrick at the club.