Manchester United are cautiously optimistic about their chances of prising Eric Dier away from Tottenham Hotspur as they prepare a formal move for the £40 million rated England international.
Jose Mourinho has identified Dier as a leading summer transfer target and is willing to give the 23-year-old the midfield role he wants after being used predominantly as a central defender by Mauricio Pochettino at White Hart Lane this season.
Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, is renowned as one of the game’s toughest negotiators and United’s attempts to sign Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov from Spurs in the past turned out to be protracted affairs.
Pochettino has dismissed questions about United’s interest and expressed his faith in Dier but there is a feeling that Spurs could be persuaded to sell if they succeed in signing Dier’s England team-mate, Michael Keane, from Burnley.
Everton and Liverpool are also interested in Keane, who could cost around £30 million, but it is thought the former United centre-half would favour a move to Tottenham over those clubs if he does leave Turf Moor.
Dier has been used mainly on the right of a back three this season, a role Keane would be expected to fill if he moved to North London. But Dier favours a holding midfield role in the longer-term, a position Victor Wanyama has largely filled at Tottenham this term, but one Mourinho envisages for the Cheltenham-born player at United.
United are believed to have considered a move for Dier in January but realised there would be little prospect of Tottenham selling to a direct rival in mid-season but hope that will change this summer.
Mourinho has admitted publicly that the targets he has given the United board are ambitious but not unrealistic.
“They know I am not asking for impossible targets, I ask for difficult targets,” he said last month.
“Then it is a difficult job and they try to do the best they can.”