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Man Utd and Chelsea prepare for battle over ‘the new Vieira’

Manchester United are thought to be leading the race to sign Sporting Lisbon’s 21-year-old defensive-midfielder William Carvalho, who has been dubbed ‘the new Patrick Vieira’.

David Moyes has sent scouts to watch the Angolan-born Portugal Under-21 star, who has been tipped to break into the Selecao senior team before this season is over.

Carvalho only made his Sporting debut this term after spending the last 18 months at Belgian outfit Cercle Brugge, but he has won back-to-back Portuguese Young Player of the Month awards since the start of the campaign.

He opened his goalscoring account for the Leoes in their recent 3-1 loss against Primeira Liga champions Porto, who lead the Portuguese top flight by just three points with Benfica and Sporting level in second.

Chelsea – who are now 7/2 second-favourites to lift the Premier League title in May – are also thought to be among a host of clubs seeking Carvalho’s signature, with Arsenal and Barcelona both mentioned recently as possible destinations for the young holding player.

The Blues have been linked with a number of deep-lying midfielders – including PSG’s Blaise Matuidi – with question marks surrounding the long-term futures of John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien at Stamford Bridge.

With Frank Lampard expected to be used sparingly by Jose Mourinho from now on and Juan Mata unfancied by the Portuguese, a shakeup in the middle of the park in west London looks very much on the cards.

However, United may have stolen a march on their rivals and have a good relationship with Sporting, having dealt with the Green and White in the past when signing wingers Ronaldo and Nani.

Michael Carrick will be 33-years-old by the start of next season and the Red Devils only have Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley – who have both dissapointed this season – to cover the two spots in the centre of midfield.

Phil Jones has been utilised as a holding player at times this year, but the former Blackburn man’s future lies at centre-half so Carvalho could expect a relatively easy passage into the first team at Old Trafford.