Midfielder's frustration at centre of potential switch across townManchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland met with the club's football administration officer, Brian Marwood, to discuss the possibility of being allowed to leave the club this summer, Goal.com UK can reveal.
Ireland, 23, has risen through the youth ranks at City and enjoyed a break-out campaign in 2008-09, being voted the fans' player of the season. This year, however, he has struggled to hold down a spot in the first team after City's comprehensive spending spree last summer.
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Goal.com UK understands that Manchester United have identified the £12 million-rated midfielder as a potential transfer target this summer, as Ireland could prove to be the long-term successor to Paul Scholes in Sir Alex Ferguson's summer shake-up.
The Republic of Ireland international met with Marwood late last week to discuss his options, and it is understood a summer exit was on the agenda.
"Stephen loves the club and had his best season ever last term, but this season he has found chances few and far between, so now he's assessing his position," said a source close to the player.
Ireland himself has admitted publicly to being unsure where his future lies, as he is frustrated about a lack of playing time. City coach Roberto Mancini has not managed to find room for Ireland within his preferred tactical set-up. However, the sought-after midfielder has underlined the importance that City will play in determining his future.
"It's been difficult because I've only played 15 or 16 times which is nowhere near the amount I played last year," he told The Manchester Evening News.
"When I have played, I haven't played in my position and it's been a difficult and frustrating season for me.
"I think there's a question mark over next year for me and I don't know what will happen, but it's out of my hands.
"I'm just getting on with my day job. Football is very unpredictable.
"You never know how things are going to go.
"I'm contracted to City and all I can do is carry on doing my job and performing well when I'm called upon, and if anything changes over the summer it will be down to the club not me.
"I grew up at City and I would like to stay here. Whatever happens in the future, whether it be now, in five years or in 10 years, it's all out of my hands because whoever I'm contracted to, I belong to.
"I'll just carry on and take every day as it comes because it's out of my hands."
City's rivals United lead the way for Ireland's signature as things stand. A switch of this nature would follow Carlos Tevez's move in the opposite direction last summer, which incensed United fans and resulted in many heated exchanges on and off the pitch between Tevez and former team-mate Gary Neville.
Neither City nor United would comment regarding a potential transfer this summer.
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