City have moved in after learning that United's arrangement with Sporting had expired and that relations between Old Trafford and the Estádio José Alvalade have never been fully repaired since the clubs fell out two years ago over the Portugal international Miguel Veloso.
Luís Vicente, a Portuguese lawyer who represents Figo, has been working on a deal which should be announced in the next few weeks and will see the world's most financially endowed club moving ahead of the Premier League champions when it comes to cherry-picking some of Portuguese football's brightest young players.
Sporting have a reputation for developing outstanding young footballers, Ronaldo being the most obvious example but the list goes much further than that and includes the former world player of the year's fellow Portugal internationals Nani, Ricardo Quaresma, Miguel Veloso and João Moutinho. City have already put in place a deal to take Tobias Figueredo, a 15-year-old midfielder rated as one of Sporting's more promising players, as part of the chief executive Garry Cook's pledge to bring elite youngsters into the club academy and develop them as Champions League players of the future.
Although we have had tie-up's in recent times with a number of clubs around the world, none have been with a club of the stature and size of Sporting and is perhaps testament to the work that the club is doing in building its standing in the game.