Manchester United look likely to sign Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen after his manager Arsène Wenger admitted the player could leave this summer. Despite being captain, the 28-year-old Belgian central defender has often found himself overlooked by Wenger due to the blossoming partnership between Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
Wenger is aware that his leader is unhappy at the lack of first team opportunities and told a news conference on Friday that a Vermaelen exit is a strong possibility. Whilst Wenger said he does “expect” Vermaelen to remain an Arsenal player, the Belgian only made seven starts in the Premier League in the last campaign with an additional seven as a substitute. Of those appearances, two were in the left-back position as opposed to in his natural role.
The fact Wenger said Vermaelen could leave the Emirates Stadium will give United a boost as they look like being the only obvious destination. Barcelona are said to be interested in the player and see him as one of a number of options as they look for a replacement for Carles Puyol, but the English side are favorites. United lost Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand at the end of last season, with the former joining Inter Milan and the latter going to Queens Park Rangers. Van Gaal has yet to sign a central defender to plug the gap and will not want to start the new Premier League season without a solid central defensive partnership in place.
Although van Gaal said this week that there was a strong possibility he would not add to the signings of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, he is expected to sign a defender as Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are the only senior players who can play at the heart of the defense. Van Gaal has handed opportunities to Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett during the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, but Vermaelen would add the much-needed experience to help United mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title. He also plays on the left side of central defense, a position van Gaal currently has nobody to fill.
Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels is another player who has long been linked with a move to United, but when his manager Jürgen Klopp was asked about the possibility of the player moving to Old Trafford, he quipped: ““If that’s not a bull**** story, I’ll eat a broom stick!”
United will meet Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup up later today in Michigan, with 109,000 expected to attend the match. However, former United man and current Real attacker Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out of the match by boss Carlo Ancelotti despite the fact the Italian said earlier this week he expected the player to recover from injury in time.
Ancelotti stoked the flames ahead of the match by claiming van Gaal probably would not win the title in his first season as United manager. Van Gaal has yet to respond as he focuses on extending his unbeaten run to four matches. Then he can focus on making Vermaelen a United player, which looks more likely by the day.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd