Manchester United will ramp up their efforts to sign Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen for as much as £15m in order to beat Barcelona to the signature of the Belgian defender, according to reports.
Vermaelen rejected the chance to extend his contract at the Emirates, and with United’s central defence the main area for concern heading into the new season, Louis van Gaal is expected to re-launch the move that was halted by Arsene Wenger earlier this summer.
As well as Vermaelen, Ajax wing-back Daley Blind is also on Van Gaal’s wish list, with the former Netherlands manager looking to bring in players that will fit into his plans to play a 3-5-2 formation that puts the emphasis on the two wide players to shift from defence to attack.
Arsenal are reluctant to sell Vermaelen to a Premier League rival and would much rather see him move to Spain with the Catalan club. A move to United would also see them lose another player to Manchester, with no less than six first team players moving north in recent years. Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure and most recently Bacary Sagna have all joined Manchester City since 2009, while ex-Gunners captain Robin van Persie moved to the red half of the city in 2012.
Despite remaining as Arsenal’s club captain last season, Vermaelen made just seven appearances as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny formed a strong partnership to keep Vermaelen out of the starting line-up.
Van Gaal hopes that signing Vermaelen and Blind would give them the necessary strength at centre-back, as well as provide cover for new summer signing Luke Shaw at left-back after both Patrice Evra and Alexander Buttner left the club this year.
Barcelona are believed to have lodged a £10m bid for Vermaelen, and although the reigning FA Cup champions would like to make for from Vermaelen’s departure, they could accept a low offer in order to keep him out of the clutches of United – who could be forced to pay up to £5m more than the Catalans.
The defence is certainly an area of concern for Van Gaal, having seen veterans Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand depart in the biggest summer of change for some time. Van Gaal’s preferred back-three during their pre-season tour of the United States has been the combination of England defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling along with Northern Ireland international Jonny Evans.
However, the former pair are yet to make their mark at Old Trafford, and while they could use the opportunity to cement a place in the United line-up, Van Gaal is still keen to add reinforcements to strengthen his effort to take United back to the top-four and mount an unlikely Premier League title challenge.
United returned home from the US this week and a number of them are set to learn whether they feature in Van Gaal’s plans later this week when the players return to training on Friday. Reports suggest that three players will definitely be put up for sale, although as many as six could yet leave Old Trafford as the rebuilding process since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement moves up another gear.
Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez, Wilfried Zaha and Michael Keane are all set to learn their fate tomorrow, while the general expectation is that £27m-signing Marouane Fellaini and fellow-midfielder Anderson are likely to be on their way out of the club – event hough Napoli have pulled out of the running for the Belgian.