Aston Villa are reportedly set to beat Newcastle to the loan signing of Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe this summer.
Dean Smith wants to bring the former Villa loanee back to the club, to add strength in depth in defence.
Bjorn Engels left Villa for Royal Antwerp earlier this summer and Smith sees Tuanzebe as his ideal replacement to push Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause for a place in the first XI.
It would be Tuanzebe’s third loan spell at Villa park, after the 23-year-old made five appearances under Steve Bruce in the 2017-18 season and a further 25 under Smith the following season.
The Express and Star claim Villa have emerged as the ‘frontrunners’, ahead of Newcastle, with United willing to let their academy leave to earn more game time.
Following the arrival of former Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Tuanzebe was likely to leave on loan, while also commenting on the return of Phil Jones.
He said: “I can see of course with Raphael looking like everything is sorted there and we’ve made that deal, I can see Axel going out.
“That’s because I’ve got Raphael, Maguire, Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones is coming back in. He’s due to start training over the weekend when we’ve got everyone in on Monday.
“That’s a big plus for him. I’ve had similar troubles in my career, he’s such a professional, good lad and it’s great to see him ready to train again.
“So hopefully he can, first of all, train with us and then get game time soon. If he can play in the Under-23s to start with or the reserves or we can arrange a behind-closed-doors game for him because I know exactly the feeling after being out for so long.
“You just want to feel your way in and he’s always served the club and it was time for him to look after himself and his own health, but now he’s ready to train with us.”
Tuanzebe impressed when given the opportunity last season. Solskjaer hailed his “tremendous” performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, in which he dealt admirably with Kylian Mbappe.
The United boss said: “Axel’s a tremendous defender, a great leader. He’s come through the academy, and we’ve known for years that he’s going to be a top player for us, and he’s got the character and the attitude that a Man United player should have.”