United weigh up a January move for Gravesen

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Real Madrid's interest in Michael Ballack may have forced Manchester United to re-evaluate their January transfer strategy, but it has also presented Sir Alex Ferguson with a cheaper alternative in the former Everton midfielder Thomas Gravesen.

Sources close to the Danish international last night revealed that United officials have made tentative enquiries about a move and, crucially, that the 29-year-old is now keen on a return to the Premiership having become disillusioned with life at the Bernabeu.

Gravesen has spent most of this season on the substitutes' bench and, despite the departure of coach Wanderley Luxemburgo at the weekend, believes his first-team prospects remain limited, a view that would be reinforced if Ballack and Roy Keane, as Ferguson has intimated, arrive next year.

Last month the Dane admitted: "As long as the club want to work with me, I will stay. But if I do get the impression the club want to give others a chance, I will obviously consider my future."