Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has identified Monaco's Tiemoue Bakayoko as his priority midfield summer target, but could accelerate a move for the youngster this month once Morgan Schneiderlin completes his £22 million transfer to Everton.
Sources familiar with United's recruitment plans have told ESPN FC that Mourinho sees Bakayoko, 22, as possessing the qualities to complement the more attack-minded Paul Pogba in midfield.
The France under-21 international is also regarded as a potential long-term successor to Michael Carrick who, at 35, has become a key figure under Mourinho, but is nonetheless regarded as approaching the twilight of his career with a decision yet to be made over whether he will be offered a contract extension when his current deal expires this summer.
Monaco, who currently sit just two points adrift of Ligue 1 leaders Nice in second place, are determined to hold onto Bakayoko until the summer.
With the French club also preparing for a Champions League round-of-16 tie against Manchester City next month, efforts are being made to keep Leonardo Jardim's highly rated young squad intact until the end of the campaign.
But with Chelsea also monitoring Bakayoko's performances, United are aware of the risk attached to waiting until the summer to move for the former Rennes player.
United have developed a strong relationship with Monaco in recent seasons, having signed French forward Anthony Martial from the club in August 2015, following on from the year-long loan deal struck for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao.
And with Schneiderlin's imminent move to Everton set to be finalised subject to a medical, Mourinho will have the funds to form a bid for Bakayoko if United believe there is a need to move quickly.
While United have no firm plans to recruit this month, the club remain prepared to move into the market if a summer target becomes available and Bakayoko may yet fit that description.