Manchester United are leading the race to sign Wolfsburg and Brazil star Luiz Gustavo, as Louis van Gaal steps up his pursuit for a holding midfielder. The 26-year-old is also being monitored by Arsenal, Chelsea, Inter Milan and AS Monaco.

According to respected Sky Italia journalist, Gianluca di Marzio, the Red Devils are in pole position to sign the South American, who is a key player for both club and country. Arsenal were strongly linked with Gustavo last summer, but it was Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg who eventually secured his services from Bayern Munich for an undisclosed fee.

Gustavo made 29 league appearances for the Wolves, scoring four goals, to further enhance his burgeoning reputation. Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, meanwhile, regards him as an undroppable member of his starting line-up thanks to the protection he offers the national team's back four.

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United desperate for a new central midfielder

Wolfsburg are not in a position where they need to sell Gustavo. Subsequently, they are demanding big money for his services - up to €33 million, according to reports. Whether United will agree to pay that fee is currently unclear, although it's no secret that the Premier League giants are in desperate need of midfield reinforcements.

Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Marouane Fellaini are the current first-choice midfielders available to Van Gaal, who will be determined to sign at least two quality players for that position over the forthcoming weeks.

Several high-profile names have been linked with a move to Old Trafford, including Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, after Van Gaal unexpectedly pulled the plug on deals to sign Toni Kroos and former Barcelona ace Cesc Fabregas, who completed a move to Chelsea last week.

A repeat of last summer on the cards for United?

Van Gaal's participation at the World Cup finals in Brazil means the vastly-experienced Dutch coach is relying on executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to get deals over the line in his absence. However, one month has passed since the final day of the 2013/14 Premier League campaign and the Red Devils are yet to sign a single player.

It was a similar story last summer, when David Moyes and Woodward was forced to wait until the final day of the transfer window before making their one and only big-money signing. Although it wasn't the primary factor behind United's dreadful season, it certainly contributed towards Moyes' eventual downfall.

Van Gaal knows that time is of the essence. And if there's a chance to sign Gustavo - even for €33 million - he may well give the green light to secure the reliable midfielder's services.

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