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The Red Devils are in talks with Arsenal about buying their club captain but the Gunners boss wants to delay the defender's departure until he has lined up a replacement

EXCLUSIVE
By Wayne Veysey

Arsene Wenger is stalling Thomas Vermaelen's expected move to Manchester United while he lines up a replacement, Goal can reveal.

The Red Devils have held talks with the Gunners about signing the Belgium international this summer.

Wenger accepts that Vermaelen wants to find a new club after slipping down the pecking order at Emirates Stadium over the last 16 months.

But the Gunners manager wants a deal in place for a new centre-back before he sanctions the departure of the Arsenal club captain.

Wenger's preference is for a defender who has Premier League experience and can fit in with his team's playing style but he has not yet settled on a specific target.

United are leading the race for Vermaelen and are ready to pay upwards of £8 million for the 28-year-old, who is in the Belgium squad that is set to take on USA in the World Cup last 16 on Tuesday night.

Napoli have also asked to be kept informed of the Belgian's situation.

Vermaelen has only a year remaining on his contract and Arsenal will not stand in the way of him getting a move before the end of the window.

Arsenal expect the Belgian to become their second senior defender to leave this summer following Bacary Sagna, who has joined Manchester City on a free transfer.

Vermaelen has been the third-choice centre-back at Arsenal since an error-strewn display in a 2-1 derby defeat to Tottenham in March 2013 prompted Wenger to make Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny his preferred central-defensive partnership.

Mertesacker and Koscielny have both signed contract extensions in recent months, keeping them at Emirates until 2017 and 2018, respectively.

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