Both Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal have been in dire need of extra bodies at the back with summer departures of star defenders and injuries creating holes in the defence.
United had lost long-serving duo, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, and required an experienced head to command the area, while Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling would gradually be grown to take control. That demand saw them approach Arsene Wenger for the transfer of out-of-favour Arsenal captain – Thomas Vermaelen, with a £10million bid. Refusal on United’s part to include Chris Smalling as part of an exchange deal saw the deal collapse with Vermaelen moving to Barcelona for £15million. It was a delight to Gooners that he hadn’t become another Arsenal captain to join a great rival. United fans moaned, but following the reports from some Catalan papers about a suspicion of foul play on Arsenal’s part, you have the feeling United fans should be thanking Wenger for a dodged bullet… (kind of).
United’s current defensive predicaments would have required them to depend on Vermaelen’s experience to keep them steady at the back. Despite not being a regular in his last seasons at the Emirates, his first season in England saw him gain wide acclaim for solid defending, as well as a good output of goals.
Subsequent injuries would later take its toll on his ability to put in high-octane performances on a regular basis, the consequence of which was the immovability of the firm Mertesacker-Koscielny partnership. He showed signs of recovery to old form when given his chances but United were never going to sign the same Vermaelen who had been voted into the PFA Team of the Year in his debut season. Maybe not a ‘crock’ but surely he wouldn’t have been one whom Louis van Gaal would have successfully hinged his 3-5-2 on.
Vermaelen is yet to make an appearance for the Blaugrana with his injuries still refusing to go away, leading the Press there to insinuate that we knew the player was a bag of sawdust but decided to sell him at the price of cement. No wrong could we be fairly charged with as it was within the rights of Barcelona’s free will to decide against signing him despite his injuries. Besides, there’s a reason why Victor Valdes isn’t at Monaco today, perhaps same reason why Loic Remy has ended up at Chelsea instead of with Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, and if the x-ray results from Vermaelen Medical didn’t show any need to abort the transfer, from whence proceedeth all the talk of foul play then?
The threat of a breakdown in the long-standing cordial relationship between Arsenal and Barcelona may be the only concern from the emergence of such a report, meaning that there is a risk of the movement of future Bellerins to the Emirates. What is clear, though, is that all necessary protocol were duly followed for the player’s movement – it was their duty to ensure that, and they did so.
Maybe we shouldn’t have sold him at all, especially as we are now in the hunt for defensive cover. Maybe it was the long flight to Barcelona or a change of climate which has further jerked and jarred parts of his bones and muscles.
In all of this, Manchester United appear to be the sole victors.
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