Manchester United transfer news: United close in on Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen

The player’s close friendship with Van Persie – with whom he shares an agent – is thought to be a factor

The Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has moved a step closer to joining Manchester United, where Jonny Evans is understood to be challenging Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney for the role of leading the side.

United are hopeful of sealing a deal to sign the Belgian defender and the player’s close friendship with Van Persie – with whom he shares an agent – is thought to be a factor weighing in favour of a deal for the former Ajax academy graduate.

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has acknowledged that the his player may leave. “It is a possibility that he goes,” he said on Friday.

The new United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted he is seeking defenders, with Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels still a target. Vermaelen is currently carrying a minor hamstring injury.

Van Gaal’s view of 26-year-old Evans – that of a player with intelligence who is comfortable on the ball – has made him a potential captain in the Dutchman’s eyes.

He has looked more at home than Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in the three-man back line the Dutchman has established.

Wenger said Arsenal will seek to replace Vermaelen if he leaves because he is “an important player” and insisted he still hopes to add to his four signings of the summer. “I am still hoping to do more [business],” Wenger said.

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