Handing the captaincy to Younes Kaboul and signing Federico Fazio from Sevilla meant that questions were always going to be asked over the future of Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham. The Belgian international, 27, arrived at White Hart Lane from Ajax in 2012, but his impressive displays in North London led to interest from the likes of Barcelona and Napoli.
Nothing materialised over the summer, and Vertonghen naturally took his place in the heart of the Tottenham defence to start the season. With clubs circling, contract talks began, and it seemed that a deal may be done earlier this month, only for Vertonghen to announce that he wouldn't be extending his contract today.
"I am not signing, no," Vertonghen said. "We agreed not to. I would prefer not to say why. I still have four years left. I am happy at the club and I think they are happy with me. That's where it ends. I am very happy, we have a good manager, we have a good team and a lot of good players. The squad is very big and you have to work hard to play every game and I hope I am playing again soon."
The final part is particularly striking. Against West Brom last weekend, manager Mauricio Pochettino chose to use Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches at centre back, leaving Vertonghen as an unused substitute. The doubts of Vertonghen's long-term future continue, but would they sell to a Premier League rival?
It's no secret that Manchester United need defensive reinforcements. Badly. Louis van Gaal's side completely imploded against Leicester City last weekend, conceding four goals in just 20 minutes to lose 5-3 at the King Power Stadium having led 3-1. Despite spending £150m in the summer, van Gaal didn't really address the crippling lack of a dominant centre back despite the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, bringing in only Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon for £16m.
Rojo appeared to be a second choice option behind Thomas Vermaelen, though van Gaal saw the former Arsenal man join Barcelona instead for £15m. That seemed like a strange move to many, but van Gaal is a big proponent of the Ajax academy having shot to stardom with the Amsterdam side in the 1990's, and that's where Vermaelen came from. They teach players to be comfortable with the ball at their feet, and that was certainly something Vermaelen could offer - even if his defending was shaky at best during his time with Arsenal.
Well, Vertonghen also came through the ranks at Ajax and offers the same attributes as Vermaelen - possibly even better, and with better defending too. Vertonghen, an international team mate of Vermaelen, would no doubt cost more than his compatriot, but he would be a much better option for United; even if he isn't the purely dominant centre back that United fans are used to with Jaap Stam and Vidic as examples.
Of course, Vertonghen has outlined that he is happy, so there is no guarantee that he will be leaving in January or at the end of the season. Yet there's a sense of doubt over his long-term future at Tottenham, particularly as he wants to play Champions League football and declined to say why he's rejected the club's contract offer. The least United could do is test the water in the New Year with a bid, particularly with few top class centre backs likely to be on the market.