Manchester United are growing increasingly confident of landing Declan Rice next summer, according to reports.
The England international was linked with a move to Old Trafford before the start of the season, while Chelsea are also thought to be long-term admirers.
Rice has taken his game to another level this term as West Ham seek to qualify for the Champions League.
The midfielder has earned rave reviews for his performances in recent weeks, including in the 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day.
United are on the lookout for an addition to the engine room as Ralf Rangnick looks to shape the squad to his liking.
Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba are likely to depart Old Trafford at the end of the campaign, leaving United in need of midfield reinforcements.
They have been linked with several players in recent weeks, including Kalvin Phillips, Jude Bellingham and Amadou Haidara of RB Leipzig.
But Rice is their leading target and The Sun reports that United are confident they will be able to strike a deal in the summer.
They believe West Ham’s chances of keeping hold of Rice for another season depend on whether or not David Moyes’ side qualify for the Champions League.
That is still a possibility, of course, with the Hammers only one point adrift of fourth place at present – albeit having played two more games than Tottenham and United below them.
But if West Ham do miss out the Red Devils are ready to pounce – even though it will cost them at least £100m to sign the England international.
United are ready to begin laying the groundwork for a summer swoop as they seek to beat the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City to his signature.
Rice and West Ham return to action next weekend when they host Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup.
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Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).
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