Record English League champions Manchester United have stepped up their interest in Portuguese international midfielder Joao Moutinho from FC Porto. United are in the lookout for a creative midfielder in the mould of Paul Scholes, who is almost certain to retire from the game again at the end of the season after coming out of retirement to help The Red Devils last season when they had been plagued by injuries. And manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes that the 25 year old is the right age to build a team for the future around, with his own retirement almost imminent in the next two years.

The Red Devils were hot on the heels of Tottenham Hotspur and Croatia international playmaker Luka Modric but if the reports that are coming in from Madrid and Zagreb are to be believed, he has already agreed to terms with Spanish champions Real Madrid and the move is almost imminent, with Spurs and Los Blancos haggling over a fee after Real’s Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin refused to be a part of a swap deal for the 26 year old Croat.

Madrid is already rich in midfield options but Jose Mourinho was still on the lookout for another creative spark for his team along with Xabi Alonso and is ready to go as high as € 40 million for the player. And that is what puts Manchester United in a predicament as they do not have the same spending power for players as they did a few years back after being priced out of a move for Lille star Eden Hazard who joined Chelsea for £ 32 million. Moreover, United’s policy is not to pay astronomical sums for a player who is over the age of 25 years with the only exception being Dimitar Berbatov, the Bulgarian international costing Sir Alex £ 30.75 million from Tottenham in 2008.

But United are not the only club in pursuit of the Portuguese midfield star who starred for his country in the recently concluded European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, with new Spurs manager Andre Villas Boas, who managed him at Porto for a season trying to make him his marquee signing to replace the departing Modric. But The Red Devils have a good relationship with all three of the major Portuguese clubs, having signed midfielder Anderson from Porto in 2007 and with Nani in their team, who played with Joao Moutinho for the youth system at Sporting Lisbon, United look to be favorites to clinch the € 25 million signing by the beginning of the season.

According to reports that have emerged from Portugal, United have already tabled a £ 20 million offer for the player who cost Porto just £ 8.5 million two years ago when he moved from Sporting Lisbon and are trying to drive a hard bargain for the player Sir Alex Ferguson believes can spark the team back into life along with new midfield signings, Japanese international Shinji Kagawa and England Under-18 player Nick Powell.

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