Manchester United are scouring Italy in order to find a potential replacement for goalkeeper David de Gea with the Old Trafford hierarchy worried about consistent interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid.

De Gea was the subject of a long pursuit from Madrid in the summer of 2015, but eventually stayed in Manchester and signed a new long-term contract with the club a few months later. But The Independent reports that Los Blancos are intent on signing a new first-choice goalkeeper in the winter months and remain keen on De Gea and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The Real Madrid hierarchy believe they have a better chance of signing Courtois than De Gea, but the Spaniard is keen to return to Madrid and almost did just that two years ago, but an administrative error scuppered his chances of moving to the Santiago Bernabeu.

De Gea has two years left on his current deal with Manchester United, who have the option to extend it by a further year, but the Red Devils are concerned that the former Atletico Madrid stopper's spell at Old Trafford is approaching its conclusion and have identified Inter Milan's Samir Handanovic and AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma as two potential replacements for the 26-year-old, should he depart for Real Madrid.

Handanovic has been one of the few bright lights for Inter in recent seasons. The 32-year-old Slovenian has delivered consistently excellent performances since arriving from Udinese in 2012 and has kept nine clean sheets in Serie A this season.

Donnarumma, 18, is seen as the natural successor to Italy stalwart Gianluigi Buffon and has gone from strength to strength between the sticks for the Rossoneri. The towering teenager is now part of the Italian national team and has kept 10 clean sheets in the league this season. He is also a client of Mino Raiola, the agent to Manchester United stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba.

The aforementioned duo are both excellent goalkeepers but neither are quite on the level of De Gea, who has blossomed into one of the world's best goalkeepers during his time in the Premier League. His club teammate and compatriot Ander Herrera is keen to see him resist Real Madrid and stay in Manchester beyond this summer, but admits that 'anything can happen in football'.

"It's difficult for him [De Gea] to one day be at one place, and then to be at another the next," Herrera said. "He learned a lot from this. It has made him more mature. I want him to be the one defending Manchester United's goal. Hopefully it will be like that, but anything can happen in football."

David De Gea
David De Gea was close to join Real Madrid from Manchester United in the summer of 2015. Getty