Manchester United have made a sensational attempt to capitalise on Raheem Sterling’s contract stand-off with Liverpool by registering their interest in the wantaway England international.
Despite completing the £25m transfer of the PSV Eindhoven winger Memphis Depay this week, and the acceptance that Liverpool are highly unlikely to sell a key player to their fierce north-west rivals, United have inquired about Sterling’s availability in anticipation of him agitating for a move away from Anfield this summer.
The 20-year-old and his representative, Aidy Ward, are due to meet the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, and chief executive, Ian Ayre, on Friday and are expected to confirm the club’s long-held suspicions that he will push for a lucrative transfer this summer.
Irrespective of that tactic, Liverpool informed United that their second highest goalscorer this season – with 11 goals – is not for sale at any price.
Whether that will deter United from returning with an offer that will tempt Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owner, to sanction a move that would stun not only both clubs’ supporters but the wider football world remains to be seen and also, at this stage, highly unlikely.
Manchester City are primed to take advantage of Sterling’s desire to leave Liverpool and are willing to pay the winger around £150k a week to entice him to the Etihad Stadium as part of their drive to recruit young British talent this summer.
But, as with their city rivals, it would take an extravagant bid to tempt Liverpool, who have Sterling under contract until 2017 and are currently minded to hold him to his £35,000-a-week deal until next summer. FSG, who have asked Rodgers to lead a review into this season’s failure to qualify for the Champions League, showed with Luis SuÃ¡rez and Arsenal in 2013 that they are unwilling to sell to a Premier League rival and have informed United that is the situation with Sterling.
The England man was booed by a section of the Liverpool support when he picked up the club’s young player of the year award on Tuesday evening after news of his desire to leave Anfield leaked out.
Sterling and his agent had postponed talks over his new contract until the end of the season, with the player keen to concentrate on his football. However, that meeting was brought forward at the request of his representatives, increasing the belief at Liverpool that the England international will refuse to commit to a new deal.
If the Liverpool owners stand firm – as they did with Arsenal over SuÃ¡rez – the impasse will cost Sterling more than £3m in lost wages given his rejection of a £100,000-a-week contract at Anfield.
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