PHOTO: Defensive target in his Manchester United kit aged 17

Ryan Shawcross is a target for a reunion with former club Manchester United.

Manchester United continue to be linked to central defenders in recent weeks. Yesterday saw the return of the Ron Vlaar rumours. United boss Louis van Gaal knows the Aston Villa centre-back well from his time as the Netherlands national team manager. With his contract expiring next summer there have been hopes he could be a cheap alternative to shore up their back-line.

However yesterday's reports suggest he would actually cost around £12 million - a price Unite would be foolish to meet with his contract in its final six months.

But they were also linked with Ryan Shawcross yesterday. It was reported they can also get him on the cheap, as the consistent performer has a buy-back clause allowing him to return to United if they meet the pre-agreed fee.

Shawcross has become a sensation for Stoke City since leaving Manchester United in 2008 for The Potters, after previously spending a season on loan at the club.

In 2008 United had to decide on whether to keep Shawcross or Jonny Evans - and went with Evans. Judging on this season's form that seems to be a mistake, there is no doubting at least the defensive solidity Shawcross brings - even if he can be found wanting technically.

In reality his previous spell at United was so uneventful you can barely find a photo of him in United colours.

He played just twice for the club before leaving for The Britannia, but you can still feast your eyes on a picture of Shawcross when he was just 17-years-old at a United photocall, wearing the club's famous red.

Now 27 he has matured both as a footballer, and in appearance, but time will tell if this photo collection gains some new recruits from January.

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