Chris Smalling made a brave decision to pursue first-team football in Italy last summer and his loan spell at Serie A giants Roma has been rewarding.
Smalling could have easily settled for a squad rotation role under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, but had bigger aspirations and has been one of Roma’s best players this term.
And there have been plenty of suggestions that the centre-back could make his move to the continent permanent this summer after such a successful season.
However, according to Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport, negotiations with Roma and United over a temporary or permanent switch for Smalling have stalled and they are now considering cheaper alternatives.
One of the alternative options noted is free agent Jan Vertonghen, who left Tottenham last week after his contract in North London came to an end.
Vertonghen, 33, spent eight seasons at Spurs and is now searching for his next club.
Roma may view the experienced Belgian defender as a more desirable option than Smalling, despite the fact he is three years older.
And if the reports in Italy are to be believed, Smalling could therefore return to Old Trafford and not get his desired move to the Giallorossi.
Smalling’s potential return would leave Solskjaer with surplus central defenders as United are already tasked with finding buyers for the forlorn Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo.
This could mean that Solskjaer is less eager to explore the market for another centre-back as he may feel Smalling can be the one to challenge Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire if he is not moved on this summer.
As reported by Sky Sports, Lille’s Gabriel Magalhaes is one of the defenders United are tracking this as he fits the club’s profile of being young, affordable and having potential.
But as much as Solskjaer desires a centre-back to boost competition in the position, a forward should be the priority in this transfer window.
And if Roma opt for Vertonghen instead of Smalling, the Norwegian boss may choose to settle for the Englishman as his third choice centre-back rather than making a new signing.