Arsenal are monitoring the futures of Manchester United duo Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling with a view to including one of the England internationals in a potential player-swap deal for their captain Thomas Vermaelen, who has reportedly agreed personal terms with the Red Devils. It’s believed the United pair may be deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford - and Arsene Wenger is tempted to bring at least one of them to the Emirates Stadium to soften the blow of losing his skipper.
This is according to the Daily Mail, whose latest report is unlikely to please the majority of Arsenal supporters. Cleverley and Smalling have both endured below-par campaigns with the Red Devils, who finished the season in seventh position, and are widely considered as distinctly average members of the current United squad.
Cleverley, in particular, has come in for an awful lot of criticism over the past two seasons after failing to shine when presented with the opportunity to do so. The 24-year-old was once regarded as one of the Red Devils’ most promising youngsters, but major doubts now persist over his ability to cement his status as a first-team regular at Old Trafford following a string of uninspiring displays.
Similarly, Smalling has failed to progress at the rate many expected he would after completing a big-money move from Fulham in 2010. However, the 24-year-old is still a young centre-back learning his trade, and Wenger may be confident in his own coaching abilities to bring the best out of the raw central defender.
Either way, it seems likely that Vermaelen will complete a surprise move to Manchester United this summer. The 28-year-old only has a year left on his contract, and if Arsenal decide against signing either Cleverley or Smalling, United will need to cough up around £10 million for the Belgium international’s services.
Vermaelen shares the same agent as United boss Louis van Gaal and striker Robin van Persie, and this will help to ease negotiations between the two clubs. While the central defender has suffered a dip in form over the past two seasons - leading to him losing his first-team place in the Gunners’ line-up - Van Gaal, it seems, has not written off his ability to perform at the highest level.
The vastly-experienced Dutch coach is on the hunt for a new centre-back following the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic - and a fully-fit, confident and in-form Vermaelen would be a superb addition to the Red Devils’ current squad.