Manchester United last night triggered a battle with Arsenal for the signature of Cesc Fabregas after making a £26m bid for the Barcelona midfielder.
United – yet to make a major signing under new manager David Moyes – submitted a formal offer to the Spanish champions on Sunday.
Moyes has identified the 26–year-old as the creative player he wants to solve the attacking weaknesses some pundits think prevented United going further in the Champions League last season.
Heading back to England? United have offered Barcelona £26m for Fabregas
It is understood that Moyes has also got his former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini in his sights as a reserve option if he can’t persuade Barcelona to sell Fabregas. However, United are serious about Fabregas and will increase their bid up and beyond £30m if they feel that is what it takes.
Arsenal have first refusal with Barcelona on Fabregas, an agreement that was struck when they sold him. However, that will only work in the London club’s favour if Fabregas decides he wants to return to the Emirates rather than switch to Old Trafford.
Smart: Fabregas arrives with girlfriend Daniella Semaan at Barcelona team-mate Xavi's wedding on Saturday
There is a feeling at United that former manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s team relied too much on Van Persie’s goals and occasional flashes of inspiration from Wayne Rooney last season. Certainly, Moyes wants his United team to carry a persistent attacking threat and sees the addition of Fabregas as central to that.
For his part, Fabregas has suggested earlier this summer that he doesn’t want to leave Barcelona, despite the fact that he has failed to nail down a regular starting place in the face of competition from players like Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Red Devils? Fabregas (left) and Robin van Persie could be reunited following their spell at Arsenal