Manchester United make Benfica defender Victor Lindelof priority for January transfer window
By Andy Burton
Last Updated: 27/11/16 5:15pm
Manchester United have made tentative enquires with Benfica over central defender Victor Lindelof, who is Jose Mourinho's priority target in the January transfer window, according to Sky sources.
However, United will only be able to complete the signing of the Swedish international next month if Benfica fail to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Benfica have one match remaining in Group B against Napoli on December 6, and have told United they will not allow Lindelof to leave the Estadio da Luz if they progress to the next stage of the competition.
The Portuguese club currently sit top of their group on eight points, level with Napoli and one point ahead of Besiktas.
Lindelof, 22, has been monitored by Mourinho since before his arrival at Old Trafford, and SSNHQ understands the United manager would have attempted to sign him in the summer had he not been able to complete the transfer of Eric Bailly from Villarreal.
According to reports in Portugal, Mourinho has continued to have his scouts watch Lindelof this season, and he is understood to be particularly impressed with his speed as well as his defensive capabilities, seeing similarities between the Swede and Raphael Varane, who he managed at Real Madrid.
Sky Sports News HQ understands Lindelof would command a transfer fee in excess of £25m, and that tentative enquiries have already been made about the player's availability.
The Swedish defender, who was publicly praised this week by United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has played every minute of Benfica's Champions League campaign so far this season, and missed only one league match due to international duty in the club's unbeaten start to their domestic campaign.
Central defence is currently a problem area for Manchester United, who are without Chris Smalling and Bailly through injury.
While Phil Jones has made a successful return to the side this month in games against Swansea, Arsenal and Feyenoord, Mourinho does not want to risk going into the second half of the season without adequate strength in depth in that position, as he looks to secure a top-four finish.
Bailly is set to make his own comeback from injury in December but will leave for international duty almost as soon as he returns, with Mourinho confirming he will join the Ivory Coast squad for the African Nations Cup on January 3, and he could potentially be away for a month.
Mourinho is also mindful of being short of central defenders in January due to the potential fixture congestion they will face. United will add two EFL Cup semi-final matches to their schedule if they are successful in their quarter-final against West Ham next week.
While Lindelof's arrival would ease the strain on the squad at that busy time, he is also seen as a long-term solution for the club, as Mourinho considers him to be one of the best young central defenders in the world.
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