Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel GarayReuters

Manchester United are set to sign long-term target Ezequiel Garay as a replacement for the out of contract Nemanja Vidic after failing to secure the Benfica centre-back's services last summer, reports in Portugal claim.

Benfica signed Garay from Real Madrid in summer 2011 after paying around £8m to acquire his services. The Argentinian international has made a giant step forward in Lisbon after a struggling spell at La Liga giant and he is now valued at £17m. This season he has started all 14 Benfica league games, scoring two goals.

United have been strongly linked with a move to sign the 27-year-old defender for some years and according to Portuguese newspaper A Bola they are now close to finally agreeing a deal.

Manager David Moyes would like Garay to join during the January transfer widow but A Bola suggest that Benfica want to keep the Argentine until the summer before accepting a cut-price deal – with the player having just one and a half years remaining on his contract and unwilling to consider an extension.

Reports add that United have already started the talks with Garay and as well with Benfica's officials.

Last summer it was reportedly that Garay had joined United but the deal collapsed at the very last minute and the Red Devils failed to sign any other centre-back instead.

With Vidic and Rio Ferdinand's contracts expiring this summer Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling may be the only centre-back remaing at United next season so Moyes is desperately looking to strength his back four.