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Wenger: I don't want to sell Vermaelen to United

ESPN staff
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Arsene Wenger has appeared to confirm that Manchester United are competing to sign Thomas Vermaelen but admitted Arsenal would prefer to sell him abroad.

United are reportedly ready to make an improved £15 million offer for the defender after Barcelona opened talks with Arsenal over his sale.

Asked if United were one of the bidders, Wenger said: "I think they could be in the group.

Wenger added: "I've said since the start of pre-season that Thomas could leave us because he needs to play now. He had an outstanding attitude and behaviour but he's in a position where it's difficult to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity."

When quizzed if he would prefer to sell Vermaelen abroad, Wenger said: "Ideally yes. It is an option. I don't want to tell you [which clubs are interested] but we have offers from abroad as well."

Louis van Gaal is keen to bolster his squad now United have returned from their pre-season tour of America, in particular his defensive options given the new 3-5-2 system he has implemented.

Barcelona are said to have launched a £10m bid, with United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward knowing that Vermaelen won't come cheap, given Arsenal's reluctance to sell him to a Premier League rival.

With just one year left on his current deal, Vermaelen is unwilling to sign a new contract at Arsenal and has agreed in principle to join United.

Wenger would like to keep Vermaelen, who can also play at left-back, but the 28 year old is seeking regular first-team football after falling behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the Arsenal pecking order and playing just seven Premier League games last season.

It is uncertain whether Vermaelen would be interested in joining Barcelona, who are thought to be keen on a £12m move for Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger.

With Arsenal reluctant to see their player leave for nothing next summer, however, any potential swoop from Barcelona for Agger could pave the way for Vermaelen to sign for United.

Vermaelen was missing from Arsenal's open training session at the Emirates Stadium today with a reported hamstring injury, fuelling speculation that a move away could be imminent.

It would also leave Wenger short at centre-back for Sunday's Community Shield against Manchester City.

Per Mertesacker is still on a break following Germany's World Cup triumph though Calum Chambers could come in after playing in that position at the Emirates Cup last weekend.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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