Sir Alex Ferguson exerted subtle pressure on Arsène Wenger over the attempted purchase of Samir Nasri late last night in what appeared to be one last attempt to revive his fading hopes of signing the player.
When it was put to Ferguson at a brief press conference in Boston that Wenger had declared he could convince Nasri to stay, spurning a £20m United bid, the United manager said: "That's a decision [Wenger] has made. He is the manager. If he stands by that decision it's a brave one. I'm not sure the [Arsenal] directors will enjoy that one, but it's possible. Maybe he will have to stay."
Privately, there has been a feeling at United that the narrow ownership structure at Arsenal could actually be an impediment to United's attempts to buy Nasri, with Alisher Usmanov and Stan Kroenke both unlikely to stand in Wenger's way if he wanted to keep the player. But in a classic piece of reverse Ferguson psychology, the manager applied pressure on both the player and his club, while seemingly ruling out buying a player he badly wants. "I don't think he's coming to United. That's all I can tell you," Ferguson added. "I think he's agreed to go somewhere else. Maybe he has to stay at Arsenal, also. That's a possibility." Nasri does not appear to have agreed to sign for Manchester City, despite Ferguson's inference.
Nasri, 24, has one year left on his contract and has refused to sign a new five-year extension that Arsenal are offering. Arsenal, who would only consider letting Nasri leave to a direct Premier League rival for £25m, are content to risk losing Nasri for nothing in 12 months as it is understood the player is leaning towards playing out the final year of his contract. Wenger, speaking in Kuala Lumpur on the first day of Arsenal's pre-season trip to Malaysia, said: "Will he [Nasri] be at the club next season? I say yes. The second part [of the question] – will he sign a new contract? I hope yes, but I am not the only one to decide. Samir Nasri is very happy at the club and is committed to staying at the club."
Wenger expressed optimism about retaining his captain Cesc Fabregas.