Yesterday news emerged that the Belgian international was thought to have agreed a deal in principle to move to Old Trafford this summer, putting an end to a five-year spell at the Emirates and join the Louis Van Gaal’s revolution, thus substantially increasing his salary, with United set to offer him £100,000-a-week compared to his current £70,000-a-week deal.
The Arsenal captain’s contract expires in 12 months and, having lost his place in the starting XI to Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, Vermaelen seems determined to seek an exit from the North London club this summer, while Arsenal would also prefer to cash in on their captain in this transfer window, rather than losing him for free in a year time.
While that puts United in a relative strong position as Arsenal can’t command as big a fee as they’d like, some of today’s backpages suggest that Arsene Wenger is determined to secure a deal including a transfer fee as well as a player in exchange for the Belgian centre-back.
The Mirror believes one between Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley could make his way to the Emirates if Vermaelen is to join United, while reports in the Portuguese press suggest that Wenger could ask for Nani to be included in the deal. Both Smalling and Cleverley were linked with a move away from Old Trafford towards the end of last season, while Nani was the subject of interest from a host of European clubs in the last 12 months, with Juventus, Monaco, Roma and Galatasaray monitoring the Portuguese.
While at the moment this can’t be considered anything more than speculation, swapping Smalling for an older defender and having to pay around £10m for the privilege would be a bizarre move for United, particularly as Vermaelen’s injury problems in the last two seasons have been well documented.
Smalling is by no means the finished article but since joining United he’s developed into an England international and the former Fulham man is likely to benefit enormously from Van Gaal’s ability to work with young players, particularly given that the work the incumbent United manager has done with Holland centre-backs Bruno Martins Indi and Ron Vlaar, who have both performed above the expectations for the national side.
On the other hand, a deal involving Tom Cleverley or Nani would be seen as a major coup for United, who could have the chance of getting rid of at least one of two of the worst under-performers the club has seen in a long while. With Van Gaal set to overhaul United’s midfield Cleverley’s days at the club are surely numbered, even though it’s hard to fathom how he could fit into Arsene Wenger’s plans, while Nani’s performance against Germany yesterday summed up his last two seasons.
Whether part of the deal for Vermaelen or otherwise, United must start clearing their decks.