Manchester United's Paul Scholes has questioned a beleaguered Arsenal's ability to challenge for any silverware next season, declaring as Arsène Wenger considers allowing Samir Nasri to leave for a sum of £25m that the club "just flatter to deceive" and "are potentially going to lose their best players."
Scholes, who will join United's coaching staff in September, said he hoped Nasri would join United and clearly believes that he will join Cesc Fabregas and Gaël Clichy – who completed his move to Manchester City yesterday – in the procession out of the Emirates.
"They may play the prettiest football, but it doesn't always produce the results they need," Scholes said. "It doesn't irritate me [that people say they're the best footballing team], because while they are doing that, we are winning games. They do play the best football to watch at times, but what is the point of that, if you are not winning anything? Not only that, they are potentially going to lose their best players, in Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy."
Wenger is expected to meet Nasri at London Colney today and will seek to persuade him to resist any United blandishments. But Arsenal appear to be softening on the idea of holding on to the 24-year-old, who has been told there will be no improvement on a £90,000-a-week contract offer, taking him to the top of Arsenal's pay scale, and who will be out of contract next summer.
A week ago, it had seemed that Arsenal would insist on an extortionate amount – £40m – to deter a United move, though a sum £5m above United's likely valuation may be enough. Internazionale have joined the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea among those monitoring the situation. Wenger is likely to favour Inter for Nasri, who will undergo his pre-training fitness assessment today, to prevent him coming back to haunt Wenger in the next domestic season. Nasri is known to want to stay in the Premier League.
Clichy last night declared that "anything is possible" at City as he announced his arrival in a £7m four-year move. Scholes said that he expected Manchester City – and Chelsea – to be his club's main title challengers.
The 36-year-old revealed that although he had not heard of Andre Villas-Boas before this summer he has already been highly impressed by the 33-year-old's public performance. "The way he has spoken and addressed the media has been impressive," Scholes said. "He comes across as someone who knows exactly what he wants from his players, and he has had a good grounding."
Scholes said he would be "surprised" if United went six years without a trophy, like Arsenal, and that Sir Alex Ferguson would not allow that to happen. "It does go in cycles," Scholes said. "But the way we have been set out at United for the last 15 to 20 years, I would be surprised if we went six years without a trophy. You can't say it won't happen, because you only have to think of what Liverpool went through, but I don't think our manager will allow that to happen to us."
United, whose own busy start to the transfer window with the acquisition of Ashley Young, David de Gea and Phil Jones is a contrast to Arsenal's troubles, have a huge challenge matching their Champions League conquerors Barcelona, though, and Scholes said it was the biggest quest Ferguson had faced in nearly 25 years at Old Trafford. United did have the mentality to fight back, Scholes said, but they had said that after the 2-0 defeat to the Catalans in the Rome European Cup final of 2009.
"Have they got better, have we got worse? I don't know," Scholes reflected. "They were two very similar games and I know that it's going to take something special to get anywhere near that team but I think we are the [team that is] closest to it."