Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has once again voiced his desire to keep Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone beyond the end of his second loan spell, declaring that the club will do "everything in their power" to make it happen.
United academy graduate Johnstone sufficiently impressed during his initial four-month stint at Villa Park last term and returned to the West Midlands in July on a season-long arrangement.
The 24-year-old has continued to go from strength to strength during the early stages of the 2017-18 campaign, keeping five clean sheets in 13 appearances to help the former Premier League regulars recover from a poor start and occupy a Championship play-off berth.
Bruce has been frequently effusive in his praise for Johnstone, pointing to his significant development with the aid of regular first team-opportunities and previously stating that it would be "great to keep him for the next few years as Villa's number one".
He also claimed that the ideal scenario would be for Villa to buy the former England youth international in January.
Johnstone's stock rose even further with a terrific reflex save to deny Floyd Ayite an equaliser during Villa's 2-1 victory over Fulham on Saturday (21 October), a memorable stop that was favourably compared to one of David De Gea's by his manager.
After the game, Bruce expressed his gratitude to Jose Mourinho for allowing the player to return to Villa and expressed his wish that he remain their first-choice stopper for a long time to come.
"Sam's got another year with Man United on his contract but we will do everything in our power (to keep him)," he was quoted as saying by the Express & Star.
"He's going to find difficult at United to break through because of what they've got. I always appreciate when I ring up Jose and he gives me him. I am always thankful so I will try my best. We will do what we can."
Johnstone has yet to make a single senior appearance for Manchester United - the club he joined aged 10 - and spent time in the Football League with Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United, Walsall, Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End before linking up with Villa earlier this year.
The serial loanee was omitted from Mourinho's squad for their pre-season tour of the United States over the summer, with De Gea and experienced deputy Sergio Romero firmly ahead of him in the pecking order and Portuguese youngster Joel Pereira having now seemingly established himself as the number three option.
Johnstone was handed a new two-year contract by his boyhood club in October 2016 that includes the option to extend by a further 12 months.