Manchester United could recall goalkeeper Sam Johnstone from his loan move at Aston Villa with the intention of selling him to Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion from almost £5m.
Johnstone joined Villa, who are managed by former-Man United man Steve Bruce, in last year’s January transfer window and extended his loan deal further in the summer. It expires on in June, but Villa have every intention of signing Johnstone permanently after he’s quickly established himself as first-choice goalkeeper.
The Englishman has played frequently in various pre-season campaigns for Man United, but has never played a competitive fixture. He’s unlikely to ever do so considering those ahead of him at the club: David de Gea and Sergio Romero, as well as a favourite of manager Jose Mourinho, Joel Pereira.
Johnstone’s currently in his tenth loan spell, having started his career at United and coming through the youth system before breaking into the first team squad in 2011.
He’s impressed at Villa Park, making 24 appearances for Bruce’s side this season. With Villa sitting fifth in the Championship as they look to finally win promotion back to the Premier League, Johnstone has been crucial, keeping nine clean sheets.
The Daily Mail suggest West Brom are willing to pay around £4m for Johnstone and United would accept that for the former-England under-21 international. Johnstone would likely have to sacrifice regular first team football that he has at Villa in order to compete with Ben Foster for the number one spot at the Hawthorns.
The Express suggest something to the Mail but go on step further, claiming that the deal has already been agreed between United and West Brom, now with Alan Pardew in charge after Tony Pulis was sacked.
Bruce has constantly outlined his intentions to bring Johnstone to the Villains on a permanent basis, and it was suggested that he wanted to do so in summer but didn’t have the transfer funds to do so.
“Sam’s got another year with Man United on his contract,” Bruce said recently. “But we will do everything in our power [to keep him and sign him on a permanent deal].
“He’s going to find it difficult at United to break through because of what they’ve got. I always appreciate when I ring up Jose and he gives me him. I am always thankful, so I will try my best. We will do what we can.”
Update: Aston Villa owner Tony Xia said on Twitter that they want to keep Johnstone: “He will be with us, hopefully we go up then he will be permanently. I think Villa is his fortunate place.”