Report: Sunderland plotting move to hijack Aston Villa's deal for Manchester United's Sam Johnstone

Sam Johnstone - Manchester United

Sunderland are reportedly battling Aston Villa for Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

According to The Mirror, Sunderland are eyeing a move for Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, meaning they could hijack Aston Villa's move for the player.

The Black Cats started the season with Vito Mannone in goal, but his elbow injury in August handed Jordan Pickford the chance to establish himself as Sunderland's first-choice goalkeeper.

Preston's Sam JohnstoneSam Johnstone in action for Preston

The Englishman has impressed between the sticks, but Pickford has now suffered a knee injury, ruling him out for up to eight weeks – and whilst Mannone is returning, Sunderland may now need to sign another goalkeeper.

Now, The Mirror report that Sunderland are eyeing Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who signed a new contract with the Red Devils back in October – despite never having played for the club.

Sam Johnstone - Manchester UnitedSam Johnstone in action for Manchester United

Johnstone, 23, has starred during loan spells away from Old Trafford, featuring for the likes of Oldham Athletic, Scunthorpe United, Walsall, Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End in recent years.

A talented young goalkeeper with three England Under-20 caps to his name, Johnstone needs to play first-team football, and it's claimed that Sunderland are now looking to sign him January, though it would have to be a permanent move given that the Black Cats have used their two Premier League loan deals on Jason Denayer and Adnan Januzaj.

Johnstone was replaced by Pickford at Preston in 2015, but could now replace the Sunderland star if the Black Cats can push through a deal before Johnstone seals a move to Championship side Aston Villa instead.

The Birmingham Mail reported last week that Villa have struck an agreement in principle to take Johnstone on loan next month, with Steve Bruce keen to boost his goalkeeping options.

Bruce now faces a battle with his former club for Johnstone's signature, with Sunderland seemingly keen to take him, but whether United would sell him is another matter.

Do you think Johnstone should join Villa or Sunderland?

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