Man United ‘closely following’ defender who has a “strong bond” with Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United are reportedly keeping tabs on Atalanta defender Merih Demiral – and they’re hoping his close bond with Cristiano Ronaldo could help to lure him to Old Trafford.

United are set for a busy summer, with the club hierarchy poised to finally appoint a permanent successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s also anticipated that United will be busy in the transfer market in a bid to rebound from their underwhelming Premier League campaign.

United have struggled defensively this season, with club captain Harry Maguire arguably the biggest culprit.

The England star has been in dreadful form, with a number of people calling for the 29-year-old to be dropped and stripped of the captaincy. Meanwhile, his defensive partner, Raphael Varane, has been plagued by niggles during his maiden season in England.

And according to Fanatik, one player United have identified as a summer target in the wake of their defensive struggles is Demiral. The Turkish international has thrived since joining Atalanta from Juventus, with the 24-year-old racking up 32 appearances so far this term.

His impressive form has alerted the attention of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, as well as United – who are ‘closely following’ Demiral’s progress. Atalanta reportedly hold a £23.4million option to turn the defender’s temporary spell into a permanent one at the end of the season.

However, it’s anticipated that Demiral’s big-name admirers will make a move to snap up the Juventus ace in the summer – regardless of whether or not Atalanta exercise their purchase option. And the Italian outfit may not stand in Demiral’s way if they are offered a ‘reasonable profit’.

While United may not be able to offer Demiral Champions League football in a bid to entice him to Old Trafford, it’s hoped that the defender’s close bond with Ronaldo could prove to be persuasive.

The pair played together for a number of years at Juventus, with Demiral admitting earlier this season that Ronaldo was “one of the best people” he’d ever met as he talked up the Portuguese superstar’s impact at Old Trafford.

”I can easily say that it’s better to have him in your team rather than against you,” Demiral told Football Italia earlier this season when discussing Ronaldo. “He always makes the difference. Look at what he’s done in the Champions League. Would Manchester United be in the last 16 without him? No.

“There’s a strong bond between Cristiano and me. He’s always helped me and we often chat on WhatsApp. I think he is one of the best people I’ve ever met.”