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Doubts over Nemanja Vidic's longevity and ongoing concerns over Chris Smalling's fitness have prompted Old Trafford chiefs to tempt the Argentina defender with mammoth offer

EXCLUSIVE
By Paul Clennam

Manchester United have staggered the representatives of Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay after promising the Argentine star an annual salary of £6 million, Goal can reveal.

Old Trafford officials have held informal talks with those close to the 26-year-old centre-half over a contract worth £115k-a-week that would represent a significant rise on his current deal at the Portuguese club, with David Moyes keen to bolster his backline following a number of injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic last season.

Reports claim that the Premier League champions are willing to pay up to £17m for the former Real Madrid star, but Goal understands that the clubs have not yet held formal talks over a potential transfer.

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Garay, who joined Benfica in 2011 as part of the deal that took Fabio Coentrao to Madrid, has been a target for United since early in the year, with club scouts having monitored his progress as Benfica reached the Europa League final against Chelsea in May.

Concerns have mounted at United over the squad's strength in depth in the centre of defence, with Ferdinand and captain Vidic - who hasn't travelled on the club's pre-season tour due to suffering from sciatica, both having been hampered with injuries in recent years.

Meanwhile Chris Smalling, seen by many at the club as a long-term successor to Ferdinand, made only 15 league appearances for the champions last term, and also missed out on the club's trip to Asia and Australasia with an ongoing foot problem.

Garay, it is hoped by those at Carrington, could slot in seamlessly to United's central defensive roster, which also includes Jonny Evans and Phil Jones.

United's new chief executive Ed Woodward insisted that Moyes has the ability to sign a "stellar player" if required this summer on Sunday, and has sanctioned the financial package prepared for Garay, which is similar to that offered by the club to Thiago Alcantara prior to the midfielder joining Bayern Munich last week.

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