Early Doors

United move would be a betrayal

Early Doors

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"One thing's for sure: we're not selling him to Manchester United." - Arsene Wenger, June 1.

If reports on Thursday morning are to be believed, this bold statement from the Arsenal manager will be well and truly tested when Samir Nasri returns to the club on Thursday, strolls into Wenger's office and demands a move to Old Trafford.

For some time there has been a rather large credibility gap in Wenger's public statements - his constant refrain that his team had a "remarkable attitude" as they threw away their season springs to mind - but having established so forcefully the notion that he would not countenance Nasri moving to Arsenal's great rivals, the seemingly unthinkable is now looming ominously into view.

It has emerged that United made a formal offer of £20 million for the France international two weeks ago, and various reports insist Nasri now wants to make the move to Old Trafford. It is said Arsenal could be willing to do business if an offer of £25 million arrives.

It's a very good price for a player with one year remaining on his contract, but make no mistake: this would be a humiliating turn of events for Wenger.

Nasri is a player that he brought to England and nurtured into one of the best midfielders around. Now the Frenchman wants to abandon his mentor and compatriot and seek out Sir Alex Ferguson, a man with whom Wenger has had a long relationship, and one that initially proved the saying that familiarity breeds contempt.

Though the menace has been drained out of the relationship between the two in recent years, largely thanks to Arsenal's continual failure to actually challenge for the title, ED suspects there is plenty of residual animosity not so deep below the surface.

To lose Nasri to United, and to Ferguson, would be a particularly cruel personal defeat for a manager who is having a pretty difficult summer all things considered.

Wenger's reign has been characterised by selling star names, but usually when he himself felt they were ready to leave and on his terms. Patrick Vieira was repeatedly courted by United and Ferguson, for example, but only left Arsenal for Juventus in 2005 when Wenger wanted to make room for the emergence of Cesc Fabregas.

The Nasri scenario is another matter entirely, even if Arsenal may yet say 'no' of course, just as United did when Gabriel Heinze wrecked his reputation amongst their fans by demanding a move to Liverpool and getting the Premier League involved in a failed attempt to push it through.

That was a betrayal of the highest order, yet United have been the beneficiaries of traitorous behaviour in the past, perhaps most famously when Eric Cantona signed from Leeds in 1992. Arsenal will want desperately to avoid another Frenchman following in those footsteps.

You can forgive Nasri for wanting to leave Arsenal to further his career, or indeed get a nice fat pay rise should that be his motivation. After all, Patrice Evra's memorable taunts from earlier in the summer, though cruel, do ring true.

"Little Prince, if you want to become king you know where you should go," Evra said prior to the Champions League final. "Every year at Manchester is a guarantee of a title. I have been here five years and cannot keep count of the trophies I've won - 12? 13? 15?"

A move to United would be a sign of ambition on the player's part, no doubt about it, but ED still believes some things should be beyond the pale.

It is often said that footballers should be treated as any other professionals, and that a transfer such as Nasri's is just like a banker wanting to switch from Barclays to Goldman Sachs. But ED doesn't subscribe to that view. For a start, 60,000 people don't greet bankers on their way into work. If they did, stocks of pitchforks and torches would be running dangerously low.

Football is a tribal business, with deep emotional ties. Nasri knew that when he started playing in the streets of Marseille, he knew it when he took on Joey Barton, he knew it when elation spread over him after scoring those two goals against Manchester United at Emirates Stadium.

To now demand a move to united, as it is suggested he will in the press, would be a huge slap in the face of those fans who had idolised him, and supported him unstintingly. It would be a betrayal of those emotional and tribal bonds.

It is said that Chelsea are interested and a move to Stamford Bridge would be equally as unpalatable. Though in theory a sale to Manchester City would be just as self defeating - they too will surely be challenging for the title - for some reason it feels much more acceptable.

Perhaps that's because that particular path has become well-trodden of late, with Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure and now Gael Clichy swapping Emirates for Eastlands. But it's also because there is no legacy of animosity between the two clubs, no semblance of a rivalry.

It remains to be seen whether the City option is an acceptable one for Nasri. If not, and he is set on a move to Old Trafford, then Wenger's authority and reputation will have been eroded, and the fans' morale crushed.

ABU is an acronym that stands for 'Anyone But United' and came about in response to the club's dominance under Ferguson; but for Arsenal fans, readying themselves to lose an excellent player approaching his prime, it may as well stand for 'Anywhere But United'.

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COMING UP: Our experts provide their picks of the greatest central midfielders in Premier League history as our summer series continues. Meanwhile, Fulham are in action against NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier. We will have live commentary of the match that kicks off at 18:45.

 

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