By Greg Stobart
Manchester United are preparing to make the first move in the race for Crystal Palace wonderkid Wilfried Zaha with a deal that would allow the winger to stay at the Championship club until the end of the season.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been monitoring the 20-year-old’s progress for several months and has stepped up his interest in recently, with Goal.com revealing that United had a senior scout in the crowd for Palace’s victory over Leicester on October 27.
Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham are also monitoring Zaha’s situation as Palace prepare for a January bidding war for a player who is expected to make his England debut in Wednesday’s friendly against Sweden.
United sources believe it is very unlikely that Zaha will move in the New Year - especially with Palace top of the Championship and on course to challenge for promotion - but Ferguson wants to strike an agreement to sign the youngster next summer in a similar deal to the one reached when Chris Smalling signed from Fulham.
Nani is likely to leave Old Trafford next summer as he approaches the final year of his contract and Zaha is considered as the leading option to replace him thanks to his stunning form for the Eagles.
Zaha is under contract until 2017 and Palace co-chairman Steve Parish has claimed it would take £20 million to lure him away from Selhurst Park, although the bidding is more likely to start at around £10m.
With such a scramble for his signature, Zaha’s next club could come down to the finances involved, although the versatile forward is a boyhood Arsenal fan and the Gunners' chief scout, Steve Rowley, is a huge fan of the player.
Zaha is considered the star player in the Championship and already has 107 appearances for Palace having made his debut at the age of 17 and become a first-team regular.
He is the latest Palace academy graduate to attract the attention of the big Premier League clubs, following John Bostock, Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne.
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