United have now drawn up a five-strong shortlist of midfield options for the transfer window, but it is not clear if they will be able to secure the signature of any of them before the summer.
The club are in need of midfield reinforcements after their two best midfielders suffered injuries which could keep them out for at least a month. Paul Pogba is out with a new ankle injury which requires an operation, with no definitive timescale of his return. Indeed, there is speculation about whether he will ever play for the club again, with rumours of a move to Real Madrid in exchange for German international Toni Kroos.
Scott McTominay is also out injured after suffering ligament damage, and he could be out of first team action until April at the latest. The 23-year-old had been the standout midfield performer of the season despite improvement from Fred.
Nemanja Matic and Andreas Pereira are Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s other options, and the Norwegian manager is concerned by a lack of creativity displayed by his side against Arsenal and other mid-table clubs.
In addition to Cantwell, there is interest in Spurs’ midfielder Christian Eriksen. The 27-year-old playmaker is set to run down his contract and leave his club on a free transfer at the end of the season, but Jose Mourinho and Daniel Levy may consider selling him in January to make sure they do not lose him for nothing.
James Maddison is another target, but Leicester City’s excellent season so far means that Leicester City are reluctant to sell, and can demand a high transfer fee regardless.