Who would Vermaelen be replacing at Manchester United?

Manchester United are linked to Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen but who would the Belgian defender be replacing at Old Trafford?

The 28-year-old Gunners skipper has been a peripheral figure at the Emirates over the last 18 months since being dropped from the team by manager Arsene Wenger in March 2013. However, there is no doubt the Belgium international is a quality and experienced defender and was formerly considered one of the first names on the team sheet at Arsenal.

Meanwhile, at Old Trafford, United captain Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have left, so there are question marks over Chris Smalling who has yet to really cement his status as a top-level defender.

With that in mind, only Johnny Evans and Phil Jones are likely to be certain to stay on at Old Trafford whilst left-back Alexander Buttner has suggested he will likely leave, vice captain Patrice Evra could depart too and Rafael’s future is uncertain. Vermaelen can be deployed as a centre-back in his preferred position but he can also function as a left back as he has done for Arsenal, Belgium and Ajax previously.

Reports suggest the deal could be worth between £10-£12 million but I suspect Vermaelen would be considered as cover, rather than as a like-for-like replacement for Vidic and Ferdinand. I would suspect Louis van Gaal to spend big on at least one world-class centre-back this summer to shore up the leaks that we saw under David Moyes last term, largely due to the previously reliable first-choice duo suffering lack of fitness and form after entering the twilight years of their career.

Phil Jones is undoubtedly the best young English centre-back there is but he is still just 22 years of age and Jonny Evans is the ideal age of 26, combining experience and quality having developed and matured over the years under Sir Alex Ferguson. Chris Smalling is the weakest link in my estimation and I would suspect Vermaelen to perhaps be coming in to replace him but, should he stay at Old Trafford, perhaps Vermaelen would be considered a replacement for Ferdinand who had a reduced role last term, now aged 35.

One way or another, Thomas Vermaelen would represent a quality purchase for United and an economical one at that – for £12 million, the Red Devils will get an experienced international well within his comfort zone in the Premier League and Champions League who can fill in at left-back if needed. In that sense, Vermaelen kills at least two birds with one stone – he could part-replace Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand or even Smalling.

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