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United pull out of race for Arsenal defender — reports

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According to the rumour mill, United have ended their interest in Thomas Vermaelen after refusing to meet Arsenal's demands.

Clive Rose

Right then, folks. Working on the assumption that they're not just copying one another, two separate and distinct media organs are reporting that Manchester United have ended their interest in Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen. First, the ubiquitous and mysterious Sky Sources ...

... and secondly (and more persuasively) the Manchester Evening News' Stuart Brennan ...

Which leaves two questions. Firstly, who did Arsenal want? We can probably assume it wasn't any of United's list of expendables -- Anderson, Marouane Fellaini, perhaps even TC23 -- and given Wenger's long-term admiration for Chris Smalling, he seems the most likely candidate. Cute stuff from Wenger, if so. He didn't want to sell to United, and he knew Barcelona were interested, and so he could insist on a deal that made no sense. Trading a defender for a defender would leave United precisely where they started.

And secondly, where are United going now? Whatever one's view of Vermaelen, he was exactly the type of player that United needed: a ball-playing centre-half. If not him, then who?