Manchester United fear they may lose their rising star Paul Pogba, a defensive midfielder recruited at great expense and effort from Le Havre two years ago, to their fierce rivals Manchester City as talks over a new deal for the 18-year-old hit an impasse.
Pogba's current deal expires in the summer, allowing him to speak to suitors as early as January, and a number of clubs are believed to have registered an interest in the player, currently on the fringes of Sir Alex Ferguson's first-team squad. He has so far failed to agree terms on an extended deal.
But while Arsenal, Internazionale and Milan are all believed to be monitoring his progress, it is the prospect of losing the jewel in their crown to City – where Pogba's hero, Patrick Vieira, ended his career and now retains an important role in player recruitment – that would jar the most.
Le Havre were furious at the manner in which Manchester United conducted themselves to sign the player in 2009, with the club's president, Jean-Pierre Louvel, accusing the Premier League side of "poaching" a player under an informal contract, something United stringently denied.