Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Garay Reuters

Manchester United have been reportedly encouraged in their race to sign Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay as Zenit Saint Petersburg are considering an approach for Tottenham Hotspur star Jan Vertonghen.

The Argentine international has long been linked with a move to Old Trafford and was set to join the Red Devils last summer. However, David Moyes's appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor blocked Garay's move to England.

United are still rumoured to be interested in signing Garay this summer while the Russian outfit were also believed to be keen on acquiring the centre-back's services.

According to the Express, Zenit are said to have dropped their interest in Garay and set their eyes on Vertonghen. Spurs's former manager Andre Villas-Boas took the managerial role at the Russian club last month.

The former Chelsea and Spurs boss is keen on bringing Vertonghen to Russia to bolster Zenit's back four.

Tim Sherwood's side are sixth in the table with 56 points from 32 games, trailing fourth place Arsenal by eight points. The Belgium international has admitted that he would consider his future if the north London club fail to qualify for the next season's Champions League.

"Those are always difficult questions. I have made no complaints about that. Let's see after the end of the season and after the World Cup," Vertonghen said earlier this season.

Should Vertonghen make a move to Zenit in the upcoming transfer window, it would leave the door open for United in bringing Garay to Old Trafford in the summer.

Meanwhile, Garay's agent Rafael Bray has hinted the central defender could leave Benfica in the summer in search of a new challenge after the World Cup.

"Right now the market is closed and Garay is concentrating on sporting matters, achieving the best possible results and, of course, having a great World Cup," Bray was quoted as saying by A Bola.

"Certainly there will be further discussions in the future to clarify the situation. In the summer he will be entering the final year of his contract with Benfica, so logically there will be news."