Manchester United are closely monitoring the progress of Aston Villa’s young prospect Barry Bannan with the view to making a January swoop. The 21-year old midfield schemer was loaned out by Gerard Houllier last term to Leeds to gain further experience but returned in the summer to Villa Park and has already made a strong impression on admirers that include Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson’s first choice in his search for a long-term replacement for the retired Scholes is Everton’s prodigy Ross Barkley but it looks increasingly likely he will lose out to Chelsea for that coveted signiture. With Darren Gibson’s expected departure in the next transfer window United’s midfield will be in urgent need of re-enforcements and the youthful zest and combative qualities of Bannan fits the bill should they indeed miss out on the Everton teenager.