Ryan Shawcross
Ryan Shawcross (R) has been a mainstay of the Stoke defense since arriving from Manchester United. Reuters

Manchester United are one of a number of clubs considering a move for Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross, according to Sky Sports. The 25-year-old came through the ranks at United before joining Stoke on a permanent deal in 2008 and becoming a key part in establishing the club in the Premier League.

While he has often been criticized as a symbol of Stoke’s overly physical approach—particularly for his tackle on Arsenal’s Eduardo that led to the Croatian suffering a horrific injury—Shawcross has also earned plaudits for his defensive qualities. His form was rewarded with a call up for the England squad for the recent World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.

Reports of United’s interest in Shawcross come at a time when they are again short of options in the center of defense. Nemanja Vidic has suffered another knee injury after missing much of last season, while Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are still to return to fitness. While all three should be fit to join Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans in the next month, there must also be long-term doubts about United’s defense.

Age and injuries appear to have taken their toll on Ferdinand, while there are also now questions over Vidic’s ability to return to his exemplary best. The three younger options have thus far failed to fully convince that they can be the focal points of United’s back line for years to come.

Whether Shawcross has the quality to be a regular for United is somewhat doubtful, however. Chelsea and Tottenham are also reported to be interested in the Stoke captain.

United are also interested in young Genoa defender Mario Sampirisi, according to TalkSport. The 19-year-old signed from Milan in the summer of 2011 and has gone onto become a regular at right-back this season. Sampirisi can also play in the center of defense as well as in midfield.

There has also been further news about long-time reported Manchester United target James Rodriguez. The Porto winger was again linked with a move to Old Trafford this week, but United may well have to see of the interest of Paris Saint-Germain, according to TalkSport.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be loathed to get into another bidding war with the big-spending French club after losing out on another winger, Lucas Moura, to them in the summer.

Rodriguez, 21, is reported to have a £37 million buyout clause in his contract.

There have also been further reports about the future of United striker Javier Hernandez. The Mexico international has found his opportunities limited since the arrival of Robin van Persie in the summer and there has been increasing speculation that he could soon exit to the club. Both Hernandez and United have denied these claims, however.

Regardless, the Daily Mail has reported that the 24-year-old could be the subject of an £8 million bid from Fiorentina. Hernandez joined United in the summer of 2010, but has so far failed to recapture the prolific form of his debut season.