By Editor Wayne Veysey| Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this

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Manchester United are targeting a move for Leeds United wonderkid Lewis Cook, Football Insider sources understand.

The Premier League giants have extensively scouted the 18-year-old midfielder since he broke into the team last year and will monitor him closely over the coming months.

A Manchester United source told Football Insider that the club have been impressed by the potential of York-born Cook and regard him as the outstanding English midfielder in his age group.

They are aware he is also on the radar of a number of Premier League clubs for his performances in the Championship over the last 15 months.

Cook, a graduate of the Leeds academy, made 38 appearances in the competition last season, 33 of which were starts, and has started 14 of the team’s 17 second-tier games in the current campaign.

Young guns: Louis van Gaal is not afraid to put his trust in youth

Young guns: Louis van Gaal is not afraid to put his trust in youth

United believe they can offer Cook a pathway to the first team, with manager Louis van Gaal a keen advocate of promoting promising players into the senior set-up.

Eight United players – Jesse Lingard, Tyler Blackett, Reece James, Saidy Janko, Andreas Pereira, Paddy McNair, Tom Thorpe and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – have graduated from the academy to the first team under Van Gaal, while rookies Marcus Rushford and Sean Goss were named on the bench for the first time yesterday as they defeated Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road.

Leeds are reluctant to lose Cook but the new contract he signed in the summer only runs until 2017 and the Championship club are aware they could face a battle to hang on to their prize asset.