Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Jonny Evans is in the running to grab United armband

Leader: Jonny Evans could skipper the Old Trafford side

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has moved a step closer to joining Manchester United, where Jonny Evans is understood to be challenging Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney for the role of leading the side.

United are hopeful of sealing a deal to sign the Belgian defender and the player's close friendship with Van Persie – with whom he shares an agent – is thought to be a factor weighing in favour of a deal for the former Ajax academy graduate.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has acknowledged that the player may leave.

"It is a possibility that he will go," he said yesterday.

New United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted he is seeking defenders, with Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels still a target. Vermaelen is currently carrying a minor hamstring injury.

Van Gaal's view of 26-year-old Evans – that of a player with intelligence who is comfortable on the ball – has made him a potential captain in the Dutchman's eyes.

He has looked more at home than Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in the three-man back line the Dutchman has established.

Wenger said Arsenal will seek to replace Vermaelen if he leaves because he is "an important player" and insisted he still hopes to add to his four signings of the summer. "I am still hoping to do more (business)," Wenger said.

Meanwhile, Sir Bobby Charlton is sure Van Gaal is the perfect man to right the wrongs of last year's woeful season for United.

The Dutchman has enjoyed a successful pre-season tour so far, registering wins over Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma and Inter Milan.

"It's marvellous. I am so pleased with the way it has turned out," Charlton, the club's record goal scorer, said.

United have been quick to make their move in the transfer market this summer, signing Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera last month for a combined fee of £55m. More signings are expected.

Charlton, a director at Old Trafford, concedes errors were made in Moyes' only year in charge.

"We struggled a little bit last year and maybe a few people made a few mistakes but I don't think we will make them now," said the 76-year-old, who made 758 appearances for the club.

"Hopefully we will be well-served by a really clever man."

Van Gaal believes his team have a chance to prove they still belong among the European elite today when they face Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid, who won their 10th Champions League trophy last term.

United will play the Spanish giants on the outskirts of Detroit, where a record 109,000 crowd is expected at Michigan Stadium.

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