The Sun on Sunday reported that David Moyes was set to offer £7m plus winger Wilfried Zaha in order to be reunited with England international Baines, who Moyes brought to Goodison Park in 2007.
However, any permanent departure for Zaha would be a huge mistake for United, who are yet to give the former Crystal Palace winger a chance in the Premier League this season. Zaha, Sir Alex Ferguson's final ever signing as Manchester United manager, has found first team opportunities hard to come by since his £15m switch to Old Trafford, and has been linked with a loan move away in January.
Cardiff, Newcastle, Stoke, Swansea City and West Brom have all reportedly been keeping tabs on Zaha's situation with a view to a temporary move, but the bid for Baines could involve the 20-year-old leaving for good, with the emergence of Adnan Januzaj limiting his first team opportunities.
Whilst United are pursuing a left back to replace Patrice Evra, who looks set to leave at the end of the season, offering Zaha permanently seems short-sighted. Baines is almost 29, and as talented as he is, is just three years younger than the Frenchman, and younger targets such as Fabio Coentrao and Faouzi Ghoulam would be better for the long-term plans under Moyes.
Meanwhile, United's wingers have been somewhat inconsistent, with Antonio Valencia and Nani both blowing hot and cold, whilst Ashley Young's spell at Old Trafford appears to be coming to an end, with Southampton reportedly eyeing a move for the former Aston Villa wide man.
In Januzaj and Zaha, United have two young wingers that can contribute for a number of years, and allowing the latter to leave could be a move they will regret for years to come. Zaha's speed, dribbling and trickery made him a prized asset in the Championship, and should be given the chance to reach his potential with United – especially having been signed for such a large price tag.
Before allowing Zaha to leave the club, Moyes should be prepared to give him a chance in the Premier League, rather than persist with the tried and tested disappointment of Young, who has to be one of the first names out of the Old Trafford exit door in the January transfer window – not youngster Zaha.
image: © James Boyes