Manchester United could beat rivals Manchester City in the race to sign Dinamo Zagreb duo Alen Halilovic and Sime Vrsaljko, according to the Daily Mail. The report states United chief, David Gill, flew to the eastern European nation earlier in the week, to advance talks on a £20m double deal for the Red Devils.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Playmaker Halilovic has been compared to compatriot Luka Modric, while right back Vrsaljko could line-up alongside Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Rafael da Silva as part of the Premier League leader's long term defensive plans.

Halilovic, who is only 16 years old, was believed to be the subject of a £9m bid from City a few weeks ago but the Daily Mail states the offer was firmly refused by Zoran Mamic, Zagreb's sporting director.

"There's no deal [with Manchester City].We cannot talk about something that hasn't happened yet. But the figure that is mentioned in the English media [£9million] - for that kind of money we wouldn't even sell his left leg!" he said.

Halilovic is the youngest player to score in Croatian top flight football and Gill is confident, following his visit to Croatia, his club are now favourites to sign the youngster.

If these reports are true then City manager Roberto Mancini is likely to be more than a little annoyed, particularly since the Red Devils have already beaten his side to the signature of former Arsenal man Robin van Persie. However, given the financial backing City have, the race for Halilovic and Vrsaljko is far from over.

Incidentally, a third Croatian player was also mentioned by the Daily Mail - 18 year old Mateo Kovačić. However, United appear reluctant to pursue the attacking midfielder, after Zagreb valued him at £10m.

Meanwhile, United have also been linked to moves for PSV Eindhoven midfielder Kevin Strootman and Oscar de Marcos from Athletic Bilbao in the mid-season transfer windows, as Ferguson plans for the next generation of Manchester United midfield stars to replace veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.