Man Utd suffer setback as Barcelona hijack defender bid

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Already, after only two signings, Louis Van Gaal has had a more successful first transfer window in charge of Manchester United than David Moyes.

However, beyond the arrivals of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, there is still plenty for the Dutchman to do if he wants to reshape the squad the Scot guided to a seventh-placed finish in the Premier League last season.

The new manager and his two fresh arrivals have helped earn the Red Devils odds of 5/1 to win the division this time around, but if they are to realise those ambitions a few extra men to bolster the squad will need to come through the door.

Top of the list will be a new centre-back and, like the pursuit of some midfielders, a snag has arisen from their pursuit of one particular target.

Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen has been on the radar at Old Trafford for some time this summer following the departures of both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic from the club, but now another centre-back-seeking powerhouse has the Belgium in their sights.

Barcelona have never been particularly flush in that area of the pitch, often using anchorman midfielder Javier Mascherano there as a stop gap, but the retirement of veteran blocker Carlos Puyol leaves the Catalan side desperately short of defenders.

The La Liga runners-up are looking to remedy that shortage with a move for the Gunner’s ousted Belgian, who made just 14 league appearances for the north London club thanks to a burgeoning partnership between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

A bid of £11m has thought to have been tabled by United, but Barcelona’s plan is to outbid that figure by some distance in order to get their man.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.