EXCLUSIVE | By Manchester correspondent Alex Stevens

Manchester United are targeting Karim Benzema in a shock twist to Louis van Gaal’s transfer plans, Football Insider sources understand.

United are ready to rival Arsenal in the fight to entice the Real Madrid star to the Premier League this summer.

The Gunners have made a lucrative contract offer to the Real Madrid star after holding discussions with Benzema’s entourage in recent weeks.

But the Londoners face competition from United, who have joined the £40million race for the France international, with Van Gaal believed to be keen to sign him in addition to Barcelona winger Pedro.

The 20-times Premier League champions have made an offer for Pedro but have not yet been given the green light by the Spanish club to push through the deal.

Van Gaal believes United need greater firepower after selling Angel Di Maria to Paris Saint-Germain last week for an initial £45million.

Real are prepared to listen to offers of above £40million for Benzema as long as they can secure a replacement.

But sources close to the situation have told Football Insider that the player is yet to be convinced that Arsenal would represent the right career move.

Benzema harbours doubts as to whether the Gunners can match his ambitions of competing for the major honours even though they have won consecutive FA Cups and are regarded as a team on the up.

The Frenchman has been used to competing for the Champions League and La Liga titles every season, and has expressed private concerns as to whether Arsenal can reach the same level.

The Premier League club are still working on a deal to sign the striker, although there remains work to be done to persuade him to make what would be a shock move from Spain to north London.

Benzema, 27, is the first-choice centre-forward at the Bernabeu and will only be allowed to leave if a proven alternative is signed.

He has scored 134 goals in 281 matches for Real since joining the club from Lyon in 2009. The Frenchman has been a regular starter in the spearhead role since Gonzalo Higuain joined Napoli two years ago, forming a productive alliance in a front three with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.