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Man United open informal talks with Southampton for Jose Fonte - sources

Manchester United have had informal talks with Southampton over a deal for centre-half Jose Fonte, club sources have told ESPN FC, with an official bid potentially coming this week.

Jose Mourinho is intent on signing an experienced defensive leader and, having scoured the market, the 32-year-old Portugal international has emerged as the best and most realistic option.

United did discuss Leonardo Bonucci with Juventus when negotiating the Paul Pogba deal, but were put off by the likelihood of more protracted talks with the Italian club, while Real Madrid's Raphael Varane also turned down a move to Old Trafford.

Fonte has been a steady presence in defence with Southampton and was particularly dependable in Portugal's victorious Euro 2016 campaign, and sources say Mourinho is now willing to sanction a move.

Aside from wanting to add experience to his defence, the United manager is also conscious of the fact that Eric Bailly will be going to the African Nations Cup with defending champions Ivory Coast, so he wants cover in January as well.

Southampton would not stand in Fonte's way if a bid was to come in, and any deal -- likely to be for a fee of £8m -- would be far less than the high price United would have expected to pay for someone more high-profile.

United have already made £5.5m in the last few days from the sales of Paddy McNair and Donald Love to Sunderland, with more sales likely to follow.