Although the agreement with the Italians can only be terminated if United give the go-ahead, manager Paul Heckingbottom is understood to have instructed his recruitment experts to compile a list of alternative options amid reports Olsen’s representatives are holding talks with Steven Gerrard’s side.
Stoke City’s Frank Fielding, previously of Bristol City, Derby County and Millwall, is believed to be one name in the frame.
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Olsen, who has not featured for United since November after being injured whilst on international duty with Sweden, is closing in on a return to fitness but was again absent from the team sheet when United were beaten 2-0 by County over the weekend.
Wes Foderingham is set to continue between the posts at Preston North End tomorrow, with assistant manager Stuart McCall insisting Heckingbottom’s men can still challenge for promotion despite falling to 14th in the Championship table. After suffering a spate of postponements over the Christmas and New Year period, United are 10 points behind sixth placed Middlesbrough but with three games in hand on their rivals from Teesside.
“Loads of teams will have their eye on the play-offs, from 14th upwards I’d say,” insisted McCall, who oversaw operations at Pride Park after Heckingbottom tested positive for Covid-19. “That’s what you’ve got to aim to do. This is only a set-back. There’s half a season left - loads of matches to play.”
With Villa also considering an approach for Simon Moore, who left United to join Coventry City last summer, Olsen is by no means certain to depart South Yorkshire. But claims that the 32-year-old’s agent has been negotiating personal terms with Gerrard’s employers have been interpreted as an indication he is keen on the switch.
McCall hopes Heckingbottom, who saw another target - John Souttar - reach a pre-contract agreement with Rangers on Friday, will be cleared for a return to the dug-out at Deepdale, saying: “It’s not ideal but we’re hoping he’ll be back in the building on Monday.”