Manchester United close in on Benfica’s Victor Lindelof to strengthen defence

Manchester United are closing in on Benfica’s Victor Lindelof, with the executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, hopeful of buying the central defender in January for less than his release clause of around €45m (£37.8m).

The 22-year-old Sweden international is wanted by José Mourinho to bolster his defensive options. Once Eric Bailly recovers from a knee injury the Ivory Coast centre-back will participate in next month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, meaning he could be unavailable for six weeks.

Although Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones have impressed when Bailly was previously injured along with Chris Smalling, Mourinho believes he requires more depth at centre-half. Lindelof would also offer a further option at right-back. Antonio Valencia has excelled in the position this term yet the manager is conscious the Ecuadorian has been a career forward. Mourinho is yet to be wholly convinced by Matteo Darmian, the squad’s only bespoke right-back.

Lindelof cost Benfica just €50,000 when he was signed from Vasteras in Sweden in 2012. Although he has had a pay rise since then, Lindelof earns around €10,000 a week, which reflects the fact that he moved up from the B side to become a first-team regular only at the start of last season. His current terms expire in 2020 and he could expect a substantially bigger wage at Old Trafford.

“We have to think about things carefully. Victor is young, he’s already playing at a club which is fighting for titles and are through in the Champions League. He has a key role at the club and one has to be careful and think things through. We have to think about what is right for him right now.”

Woodward is confident United will not have to pay the amount specified in the release clause for a defender whose relative inexperience is reflected in his having won the first of 11 caps in March of this year. Benfica’s record sale is the €40m received from Zenit Saint Petersburg for Axel Witsel in 2012 and the club would be keen to break this.

Everton are hopeful of a double deal for Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay after Mourinho said both players could depart should they wish. Each cost United around £25m in summer of 2015. Schneiderlin worked at Southampton with the current Everton manager, Ronald Koeman, who sanctioned his sale to United.

United’s preference would be to sell Schneiderlin and Depay but it is thought Everton want to buy the France midfielder and take the Dutch forward on loan.

Each has been allowed only very limited game time under Mourinho.