Manchester United are reportedly tracking Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes with a view to a January transfer bid.
Zenit St Petersburg and AS Roma are also thought to be interested in the Germany international, but Russian news source NEWSru.com reports Manchester United are now also keen on the centre-back and have begun monitoring his performances.
Howedes came through the youth academy at Schalke, and has gone on to make 115 league appearances for the Bundesliga side.
The strong centre-back has nine caps for Germany, and was selected for Joachim Low's Euro 2012 squad this summer.
The 24-year-old has been widely recognised as one of the most consistent players in the Bundesliga, and Howedes has Champions League experience with Schalke.
Manchester United have suffered a defensive injury crisis this season, with Nemanja Vidic sidelined, Phil Jones out, Jonny Evans struggling with a dead leg, and Chris Smalling only just returning from a long long-off.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been linked with a number of centre-backs, most recently Howedes' Germany teammate Mats Hummels, and the Old Trafford side could look to strengthen the defence in January if they continue to struggle with defensive selection.
Ferguson made it clear earlier this month that the defensive mistakes had to be cut out, but Manchester United conceded another late goal in the Champions League - a goal Ferguson described as "an absolute shocker."
But Manchester United recovered and last Sunday gave their best performance yet, keeping a clean sheet in the 3-0 victory over Newcastle.
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