By Wayne Veysey and Greg Stobart
Manchester United have tabled an opening bid of €7.15 million for Wilfried Zaha and are confident of beating Arsenal in the race for the Crystal Palace sensation, Goal.com can reveal.
United made the first formal move on Thursday for the forward, who has privately told the Premier League leaders that he favours a move to Old Trafford ahead of the Gunners.
Palace have rejected United’s cash offer as they hold out for a higher fee and will wait to see if Arsenal will also make a bid.
The Championship club are keen to drive the price up and above €12m, although it is believed they have not stipulated an exact fee.
Goal.com understands that United are undecided on the framework of the deal and whether to loan back Zaha, even though chief executive David Gill said on Wednesday that United would be willing to let the newly-capped England international re-join the promotion chasers on loan.
“He is one of the players we are looking at,” said Gill. “Even if we did something with Wilfried, that would be for the summer.”
While Gill insists “there is still a long way to go” before Zaha moves to United, the player is understood to have told United officials that he would like to join Sir Alex Ferguson’s side despite being a boyhood Arsenal fan.
And United believe they will capture Zaha even though Arsene Wenger followed Gill by going public with Arsenal’s interest at his weekly press briefing on Thursday morning.
“We are looking at him (Zaha), but at the moment we have not made any bid for him,” Wenger said.
Goal.com revealed on Monday that Arsenal had re-entered the race for the 20-year-old and were locked in a 50-50 battle for his signature with United as both clubs prepared to hold talks with Palace co-chairman Steve Parish this week.
Parish and Palace manager Ian Holloway have both consistently said that Zaha will not be sold before the end of the season but it is understood that the newly-capped England international will leave Selhurst Park by the end of the window, either permanently or on a loan-back deal.
The fee required to secure the 20-year-old, who is contracted to Palace until 2017, could stretch to €14.3m including add-ons.
Palace would prefer for Zaha to spearhead Palace’s promotion challenge and remain at the club until next summer but Wenger is only interested in a deal in which the youngster is integrated into the Arsenal set-up immediately.
The attacker, who can play anywhere across the front three, has been a driving force in Palace’s surge to fourth in the Championship, scoring five goals in 26 league appearances this season. He made his England debut as a substitute in the 4-2 November friendly defeat to Sweden.