Manchester United are preparing a January swoop for Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar, according to the Sunday Express.

The 29-year-old was a key part of Louis van Gaal's team which made their way into the semi-finals of the Fifa World Cup last summer. The Dutchman is looking to re-unite with his countryman and plug Manchester United's leaky defence, which has been a story of distress thus far for the fans.

Villa will do well to keep him beyond the summer, with his contract set to expire after the end of this season. His performance in the World Cup is likely to attract a lot of bids from clubs in January but Van Gaal's familiarity with the player may prove to be the deciding factor.

United have been linked with a host of defenders, by the likes of Borussia Dortmund star Mats Hummels but the German is unlikely to be available in January, with the Bundesliga club still in the Champions League. Vlaar may prove a clever acquisition for the short term with his fee expected to be in the range of £4m, a pittance compared to what they have spent this summer.

The likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Ander Herrera are yet to hit top gear this season but the team is showing signs of progress after conceding five against Leicester City in the league last month. Their recent upsurge in form has seen them leapfrog Arsenal to the fourth spot and are looking to move from strength to strength as their new recruits gel together.

United have added Marcus Rojo to their defence in the summer but need a more commanding player in the centre to replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, whose absence has left a void in the squad.

Vlaar, with his experience with Villa and the national team can slot right in and also provide support to the likes of Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Tyler Blackett, who have been handed the responsibility to protect David de Gea's goal amid a plethora of injuries.