The Star understands City have yet to officially make contact with Bramall Lane about capturing Slater, who won promotion from League One during a spell on loan in East Yorkshire last season.
That has prompted Wigan, who are well-placed to win promotion from the third tier this term, to explore the possibility of trying to hijack Grant McCann’s bid if the boardroom uncertainty at the MKM Stadium causes him a problem.
Like his counterpart at City, Leam Richardson also has off-the-pitch issues to contend with as travel restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic threaten to complicate face to face negotiations with some of the club’s overseas investors. But Wigan are aware that McCann could find it difficult to progress a bid unless City’s prospective Turkish owners either grant their approval or add more flesh to the bones of their proposed development plan.
Preston North End and Rotherham United have also previously expressed an interest in Slater, although the latter are only expected to resurrect it if Daniel Barlaser is prised away during the transfer window.
Slater admitted just before Christmas that his preference would be to remain with United - the team he has represented three times as a player and supported since childhood - if opportunities were to prove forthcoming under new manager Paul Heckingbottom.
Born in Gleadless, Slater had been set for a chance under Heckingbottom’s predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic until being sidelined by an injury over the autumn period.
With United’s Christmas and New Year fixture programme being wrecked by postponements caused by coronavirus outbreaks among opposition squads, those have nor proved forthcoming which, in turn, has encouraged City to try and steal a march on their rivals before he becomes a free agent this summer.
If a deal does go through, it could see Slater competing against the side where he turned professional with City’s trip to United among those to fall victim to the health crisis.
Intriguingly, Wigan’s parent company Phoenix 2021 is backed by Europa Point Sports, whose Gibraltar based club faced United in a friendly soon after Jokanovic’s appointment.
Slater completed the second-half of that fixture, which United won 3-0 thanks to goals from John Egan, Lys Mousset and Tyler Smith - who has made 14 appearances since joining City on a permanent basis in August.
Mal Brannigan, who once served as United’s managing director, is now chief executive at Wigan.
Slater made his debut for United under Chris Wilder in 2016, scoring during an EFL Trophy tie against Grimsby Town. He made his first league outing 12 months later, replacing former team mate Samir Carruthers during a Championship match at North End, before completing spells on loan with Carlisle, Scunthorpe and City.
Heckingbottom hopes to recruit at least one new face before the window closes, with a centre-half thought to be his top priority although the focus is likely to be on reprofiling a playing staff overloaded with attacking options including Blackburn Rovers target Oliver Burke.