Report: Manchester United close to first January signing, Yoshinori Muto nearing £12m move

Coface Arena exterior at night 2 - FSV Mainz 05

Mainz star Yoshinori Muto is reportedly close to signing for Manchester United.

According to the Sunday People, Manchester United are closing in on a move to sign Mainz forward Yoshinori Muto after an impressive start to life in Germany.

The Red Devils were once again turgid in attack against Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Saturday evening, and it took an injury time Wayne Rooney penalty to send United into the fourth round of the competition with a 1-0 victory.

Manager Louis van Gaal has been heavily criticised for his side's poor attacking displays, despite bringing in the likes of Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial - two talented youngsters - during the summer transfer window.

Now, Van Gaal could be closing in on his first January signing, with the Sunday People reporting that Mainz star Yoshinori Muto is nearing a move to Old Trafford.

Muto, 23, left his hometown club FC Tokyo in the summer having hit 23 goals in 50 games, and he became the latest Japanese star to make the move to the Bundesliga.

Players such as Atsuto Uchida, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai, Makoto Hasebe, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Genki Haraguchi, Yuya Osako and former Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa are all playing over in Germany, with teams prepared to take gambles on the top Japanese talent.

Ironically, Muto was bought to replace another Japanese forward, as Shinji Okazaki left Mainz to join Leicester City over the summer - but few could have seen Muto making such an immediate impact.

With seven goals and two assists in 17 appearances, Muto has enjoyed a superb start to life with Mainz, and it seems that he could be leaving the Coface Arena after just a matter of months.

The report states that United are close to sealing a £12m deal to sign Muto, in a bid to give their attack a spark, with the 23-year-old - who can play anywhere across the front line - seen as the man to provide some more goals at Old Trafford.

United have a long history of signing East Asian players, with Dong Fangzhou (China), Park Ji-sung (South Korea) and the aforementioned Kagawa (Japan) all signing for United over the years.

Many critics will put that history down to the huge marketing benefits that come with signing East Asian players, but Muto has shown in Germany that he can score goals - and after a lacklustre first half of the season, that's just what United need right now.

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