Yoshinori Muto
Yoshinori Muto is close to making a move to Manchester United Getty

Manchester United are closing in on a move for Mainz striker Yoshinori Muto in January, as Louis van Gaal looks to alleviate his attacking problems up front. The Red Devils have gone 10 games without scoring in the first half and if not for a penalty in injury time against League One Club Sheffield United, they would have had to participate in a replay scheduled for later in the month to progress through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.

According to the Sunday People, Sadio Mane remains Van Gaal's top target for the window, but Southampton's inhibition in letting him leave in January, has forced the Dutchman to look at other options to keep pressure on a top four spot. The Japanese striker is expected to be available for a fee in the range of £12m ($17m) in the ensuing transfer window and will provide some much needed backup to the likes of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial, who are struggling to carve open deep lying defences.

Dubbed the Japansese Messi, Muto has scored seven goals in 18 appearances thus far for the Bundesliga club and would consider a move abroad if a respectable offer comes his way. Van Gaal has been monitoring the player for a long time, but did not make a move when he transferred to Mainz last summer, having allowed a host of strikers, by the likes of Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie to make their way out of Old Trafford.

The report suggests that the German club had resisted United's offer but are now close to relenting to pressure, with a deal between the clubs likely to be completed in the next few days. The Red Devils play three Premier League games in the next two weeks and Van Gaal will be desperate for the deal to be completed as soon as possible, to allow his frontmen some much needed rest after a busy festive period.

United are currently fifth on the table, three points behind Tottenham following their 2-1 win over Swansea City last weekend, ending an eight game streak without a win. The Red Devils travel to St James' Park midweek, with Newcastle United looking to avenge their near miss against Arsenal at the Emirates on January 2.