United assistant eyes Sneijder
Manchester United assistant-boss Rene Meulensteen has claimed that he "could not think of a more ideal player for our team" than Wesley Sneijder. Although Manchester City have played down talk a deal is imminent for Samir Nasri, it has been suggested in some quarters Sir Alex Ferguson has given up hope of luring the Arsenal midfielder to Old Trafford.
That would leave just two of the stellar names who have been heavily linked with United over the summer as potential replacements for Paul Scholes. And as Luka Modric has already expressed a preference for Chelsea should he eventually leave Tottenham, Sneijder is the remaining target.
The Dutch playmaker's quality is not in doubt, as he proved in guiding Inter Milan to the Treble in 2010, when he was also part of the Holland team that reached the FIFA World Cup™ final. Sneijder has previously expressed a liking for United too.
Yet obstacles remain to the possibility of a deal, including the 27-year-old's likely wage demands and uncertainty surrounding Inter's willingness to sell a player who still has four years remaining on his contract. However, of one thing Meulensteen is certain. Sneijder would be a big hit if he did eventually make the switch.
"The new Paul Scholes doesn't exist, just as a new Roy Keane has never emerged, but Sneijder would fit perfectly here," Meulensteen told Dutch magazine Voetbal International. "I cannot actually think of a more ideal player for our team. I say this not because he's a Dutchman. I've worked here for a while, I know the team inside out and I know he would be a great signing.
"He seems a perfect complement to the likes of (Javier) Hernandez, (Wayne) Rooney, Park (Ji-sung), (Ashley) Young, (Antonio) Valencia, Nani and (Ryan) Giggs. And, of course, Wesley has the necessary experience in top-level football. I don't know what his future is at Inter, whether he may leave or whether he's affordable. But, purely based on football skills, I say get Sneijder."
Although Meulensteen's words have not always come true, he was glowing in his praise for Ajax keeper Maarten Stekelenburg last season for instance after Edwin van der Sar had confirmed his retirement plans, it is hard to imagine such comments would be made without Ferguson at least being aware of them.
And they would certainly leave Sneijder in little doubt over the warmth his arrival at Old Trafford would generate, topping off, as it would, a virtually perfect summer following the arrivals of Ashley Young, David de Gea and Phil Jones.
Ferguson would regard Sneijder as being about to enter the peak years of his career, and given the ages of United's confirmed recruits it is little wonder Gary Neville has backed the youthful approach as two of his long-time team-mates prepare to follow him through the Old Trafford exit door.
Wes Brown and John O'Shea are thought to be inching closer to a departure for Sunderland, possibly by the end of the week. With Neville retiring in the middle of last season, Van der Sar and Scholes hanging up their boots as well and Owen Hargreaves not offered a new contract, it has been a summer of change. And De Gea and former Blackburn defender Jones, have not even celebrated their 21st birthdays yet.
With other promising youngsters emerging from last term's triumphant FA Youth Cup-winning team, Ferguson is clearly infusing his squad with a hunger Neville believes is an essential factor in United retaining top spot.
"United always buy players who have still got to climb to reach the top of the mountain," Neville told www.manutd.com. "When you try and buy the finished article, it's always difficult, so you want hungry players.
"The best thing is to get people with a little bit of development to go as the manager always extracts the maximum out of players. That's the club's policy and always will be. There will be lots of investment in the top teams this season but I still see United being in pole position because of the continuity of the club and the manager."