With the January transfer window almost at hand, English champions Manchester United are reportedly ready to meet a £40 million release clause to sign Argentine midfielder Nicolas Gaitan from Portuguese heavyweights S.L. Benfica.

Gaitan, who proved his worth during United's 1-1 draw against the Portuguese club in a Champions League group game last month, has been consistently monitored by United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's Europe-based scouting team.

United, however, are not the only ones in the race for the talented 23-year-old Argentinean as the player has also drawn interest from the likes of Italian club Inter Milan and French Ligue 1 side Paris St Germain.

Benfica, nonetheless, have secured the player to a five-year contract this week that will bind him to the club and entitle him to more than double his annual salary to £2 million. The Portuguese club, however, was unable to increase the player's release clause.

United are currently looking for a quality attacking midfield player, after failing to bag Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder and Arsenal's Samir Nasri; the latter moved to local rivals Manchester City. As per reports, even Anderlecht's Argentine midfielder Lucas Biglia is on United's radar.

Benfica will resist all attempts to lure away their midfield star and will want to retain his services for, at least, one more year, according to a Telegraph report.

Osvaldo Nicolas Fabian Gaitan, who currently plays as a left-sided midfielder for Sport Lisboa e Benfica in the Portuguese first division, made his senior debut with his hometown club of Boca Juniors in a 3-1 win over Arsenal de Sarandi on June 2008.

In May 2010, Benfica confirmed they had signed him on a deal for the 2010-11 season for €8.4 million.