United boss Sir Alex Ferguson signalled his intention to sign Defour after sending the 21-year-old a personal get-well-soon letter in October.
Fergie wrote that he would remain in contact with the Belgian club over his recovery. Gunners chief Arsene Wenger is also a long-term admirer and now they are set to go head to head for Defour.
A source said: "Many Belgian players go and play in Holland but there is a big difference between the Dutch League and the Premier League.
"Steven would love to play in England. There are a lot of clubs looking at him but it all depends on how he comes back from his injury, whether he returns to what he was.