Manchester United are still interested in Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes if their plans to sign Mats Hummels fall through this summer.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the Borussia Dortmund captain remains Louis van Gaal's top transfer priority, but sensibly he's already identified a back-up option should negotiations with the Bundesliga giants breakdown.
Hummels is probably a higher-profile acquisition to slot straight into the heart of the Red Devils' defence, but Howedes boasts much more versatility and is capable of playing right across the back-line.
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And, given the veteran Dutch tactician's preference to work with players that can operate in a number of different positions it's unsurprising the 27-year-old is being linked with a prospective switch to Old Trafford.
Howedes could even be signed in addition to Germany international team-mate Hummels as Van Gaal attempts to significantly strengthen his back four. However, the fact the former Netherlands head coach has been linked with Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne and Barcelona's Dani Alves too makes the deal a little more unlikely.
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Another factor that might prevent Manchester United from pursuing Howedes is issues surrounding the player's fitness after he suffered a "complex ankle injury" during Schalke's 1-0 victory over Paderborn earlier this month.
He was substituted early in the second half and missed the club's final game against Hamburg on Saturday, and has now been rated doubtful for the start of next season.
"Benedikt Howedes underwent a series of tests on his left foot during a visit to Germany national team doctor Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt on Friday," confirmed an official statement.
"Dr. Muller-Wohlfahrt confirmed the Schalke medical department's previous diagnosis. Howedes suffered an almost full medial collateral ligament tear, a partial rupture of his syndesmosis, a capsule injury, and lastly a bone oedema."
The news will come as a massive blow to Manchester United if they were indeed planning to firm up their interest in Howedes this summer, and they'll be hoping he makes a strong recovery during the close-season.
Meanwhile, recent reports linking the club with Valencia defender Nicolas Otamendi are thought to be wide of the mark as Van Gaal has no desire to bring the Argentine to the Theatre of Dreams.
Manchester United fans: Do you think Benedikt Howedes is a viable transfer alternative to Mats Hummels this summer? Is it too risky signing an injured player? Have your say below…