James Rodriguez, who has been dubbed the South American Cristiano Ronaldo, is being targeted to fill the former United star's boots at Old Trafford, according to the Metro.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson apparently sent scouts the short distance across Manchester to watch Porto's 20-year-old starlet in action in their Europa League defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday.

Rodriguez is a left-footed winger who is more than capable of providing a threat through the middle, a fact testified by his nine goals in nine Portuguese Liga starts this season.

Getting their hands on the Colombian international will not be easy, though. There is sure to be competition for his signature, while the player also signed a new contract last June with a release clause of €45 million, according to Uefa.com.

That deal came on the back of Rodriguez's impressive first season in at Porto, which included a hat-trick in the Portuguese Cup final. The player also amassed three goals and three assists during the FIFA Under 20 World Cup last summer.

Certainly Rodriguez would offer a vital new component to United's play. While they have three wingers on their books, neither Nani, Antonio Valencia, or Ashley Young are naturally left footed. Although Young is comfortable playing on the left, his form has been up and down during his first season at Old Trafford.

A team with Rodriguez and Nani on either side, with the ability to switch positions at will, would scare most defenses across Europe. Rodriguez's goal scoring ability would also be a big boost to a United side that is all too often reliant on talisman Wayne Rooney to hit the back of the net.

Though at this stage it might be considered a gamble to spend heavily on a player with limited experience at the sharp end of European soccer, it would be wise for United to move now before a bidding war is started for his services. Ferguson has already shown his willingness to invest heavily in youth, with the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling arriving for large fees of late. Could Rodriguez be next?