Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe is braced to join Aston Villa on loan for the rest of the season before the end of the week.

The Midlands club have made room for a new arrival after allowing Ritchie De Laet to join Royal Antewerp until July, with boss Steve Bruce confident a deal can be stuck.

And the Daily Mail understands Villa hope to conclude the addition of the England Under-21 international well in advance of their next Championship fixture away at Sheffield United on 30 January.

Villa currently occupy a play-off spot in the second tier after four wins in a row, just three points off an automatic promotion place, with 18 matches of the campaign remaining.

United boss Jose Mourinho had initially suggested he would delay making a decision on Tuanzebe's future until the fitness of Eric Bailly had been fully clarified.

The Ivory Coast international has not played for United since November after undergoing ankle surgery on an injury picked up while playing for his country, which was expected to keep him out for three months.

But on Tuesday (23 January) it emerged Bailly is on course to return just a week later than scheduled in time to face Sevilla in the Champions League, which should allow Mourinho to send Tuanzebe on loan.

The 20-year-old has only made three senior appearances this season – despite the raft of defensive injuries the club have suffered this season – and has enjoyed just a single minute of action in the Premier League.

Earlier this month, Mourinho dropped the strongest hint yet that Tuanzebe would be allowed to leave in January after admitting he was unable to give him regular opportunities at present.

"Tuanzebe is a very good player that is not having lots of possibilities to play here," the United coach explained. "But he's our player and he will be our player – no chance we give up on such a talented boy.

"But it is something we are thinking about, a loan until the end of the season. Yes or no. We are a bit afraid of injuries, of needs and needing him.

"We have Eric Bailly injured, we are not free of other injuries. So we are delaying the decision and we are going to delay it until the end of the transfer window.

"If we have to make a decision, we are going to make it at the end of the month. Probably at the end of the month, if we have no fresh injuries, if Eric Bailly is very close to being back or is already back, then probably it will be good for Axel to go on a loan and to be back for next season, because he is a player that we like very much."

James Wilson and Demetri Mitchell have already left Old Trafford this month, having completed moves to Sheffield United and Hearts until the end of the campaign.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan became the third exit at the start of the week as he joined Arsenal as part of the deal that saw Alexis Sanchez move to the 20-time English league champions.

Axel Tuanzebe
Tuanzebe has made just three United appearances this season. Getty Images