Arsenal were facing up to the fact they may have no option but to sell Samir Nasri last night after the player made it clear how desperate he is to leave, following Manchester United's £20m offer.
The mood at Old Trafford has been one of mounting pessimism after the initial offer for Nasri, tabled three weeks ago, failed to elicit even a formal rejection from the north London club. The Independent understands that Nasri and manager Arsène Wenger did not hold talks when the midfielder returned to London Colney yesterday. But the club is establishing a full sense of how badly Nasri wants to leave, with the prospect of the silverware at United strengthening his resolve to go.
Nasri's own determination to leave is now understood to be a more significant factor even than the commercial pressure the club will find themselves under to sell, should United raise their bid for a player who will be out of contract in only 12 months' time and at liberty to walk away.
The narrow ownership structure of the club had been seen as another reason why United may have failed in their audacious bid to prise Nasri away, with a feeling that neither Alisher Usmanov nor Stan Kroenke would stand in Wenger's way if he wanted to keep the player.
Wenger is also understood to vehemently oppose the idea of selling the player to a rival club, which would make Manchester City and Chelsea – who have been monitoring the instability of Nasri's situation at Arsenal – equally unlikely suitors. Though Internazionale are understood to have had discussions with Nasri's representatives, too, the Frenchman is keen to stay in the Premier League and he seems to hold the cards.
But the fact that Arsenal may be willing to accept £25m, a figure only £5m above the initial United asking price, suggests that United will find the move for Nasri far more straightforward than they had initially thought. The uncertain factor in the equation, though, is the tribal rivalry which has characterised United's relationship with Arsenal.
There has been a feeling at the highest level within Old Trafford that removing Nasri from Arsenal may be considered akin to Liverpool trying to take a player from them. United remember the Gabriel Heinze saga, at the end of the 2006/7 season, in which Heinze demanded the right to be transferred to Liverpool and Sir Alex Ferguson steadfastly refused the £6.8m bid and Heinze went to Real Madrid the following August instead.
But, if anything, Nasri's desire to leave is even greater than Heinze's was back then. Arsenal have rejected the £120,000-a-week deal he wants to take him to the top of Arsenal's payscale, and he will be out of contract next summer. Arsenal were initially ready to demand a knock-out sum to deter a United move, though their position has softened. However, Nasri will be on their pre-season tour to Asia when the squad fly out on Sunday.
United's move for Nasri means that the prospect of the club moving for Wesley Sneijder is receding. The view from Milan is that Internazionale are ready to part company with the Dutchman, whose agent Sir Alex Ferguson met in London in April.
But it will take a £35m deal to prise Sneijder out of Inter's clutches and United's transfer culture – which generally rules out major investments in players over the age of 26 – also suggests that the prospect of Sneijder moving to Old Trafford are remote. The Dutchman turned 27 a month ago.