Arsenal and Manchester United to fight for Athletic Bilbao's Laporte

Arsenal and Manchester United are set to battle head on in January for the signature of Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, according to the Daily Express.

Both clubs are in the market to reinvigorate their backline, which has been leaking goals since the start of the season. Laporte has a release clause of £32m in his contract, a steep price for someone who is yet to make his way into the French national team.

However, both Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger are convinced of the 20-year-old's ability and are willing to break the bank to secure his services.

The choice will be down to Laporte if both clubs match the clause with personal terms playing a major part in the deal. United will have an edge given they have already done business with Bilbao in the form of Ander Herrera in the summer, while Wenger will be looking to use his French influence to attract the youngster to north London.

The Gunners currently have four defenders fit in the first team with long-term injuries to Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscileny. The former Newcastle man has ruptured his ankle ligaments while Koscielny is struggling with an Achilles problem and is expected to be out till after the next international break.

Meanwhile, United have failed to replace Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand appropriately and are looking to add a more reliable screen in front of David de Gea's goal which has already conceded five against newly promoted Leicester City this season.

The likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans have not been able to shoulder the responsibility of leading the backline on their own and Laporte's arrival will give them some much needed security. However, van Gaal will be impressed by how the Red Devils have managed to nullify the threat imposed by Chelsea at Old Trafford last weekend and will be seeking for more of the same when they travel to the Etihad on Sunday.