The Welsh teenager Aaron Ramsey is expected to travel to Manchester United's Carrington training ground in the next 48 hours for talks with the manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The European champions believe they hold the initiative in the increasingly fraught race to capture the Cardiff City star, who became the youngest player to appear in an FA Cup final last month.
On Tuesday Manchester United announced they had agreed a fee with Cardiff for the 17 year-old but that was quickly followed by a statement from Ninian Park that they had also agreed a fee with another Premier League club, now accepted as being Arsenal.
Late on Tuesday night Everton entered the fray with their own formal bid for the Wales Under-21 international, who was in John Toshack's senior squad last week for the two friendlies with Iceland and Netherlands without participating in either.
Everton have now been given permission to talk to the Caerphilly-born player but that courtesy also applies to both Manchester United and Arsenal. However, Ramsey's advisers have made it clear the player has not agreed terms with any of the three sides.
Initial talks are expected first with the Premier League champions, although Ramsey will speak to both Arsenal and Everton as well. Everton released a statement yesterday which said: "The Bluebirds have accepted a bid of £5m from Everton for the 17-year-old midfielder, and [we] have now been given permission to talk to the player about a move to Goodison Park."
Ferguson held talks in Moscow last month ahead of the Champions League final with both the Cardiff manager Dave Jones and the chief executive Peter Ridsdale. And it is believed that is the bid Cardiff would prefer because they would immediately have the player returned to them for a season-long loan, which would boost their own promotion plans for the next campaign.
Cardiff are desperate to build on their success of reaching the Cup final and want to be in the Premier League when their new stadium is opened at the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
Ramsey would provide considerable assistance in trying to achieve that aim, so the loan deal from Old Trafford is the offer they obviously favour.