SUNDERLAND are closing in on the signing of Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson but have a battle on their hands persuading defenders John O’Shea and Wes Brown to join the club.
The Black Cats have acted swiftly in the wake of Jordan Henderson’s imminent departure and have had a £12m bid for the trio accepted by United, writes Graeme Anderson.
United themselves are keen to rebuild in the wake of their Champions League defeat to Barcelona last month.
And Sir Alex Ferguson would immediately recoup most of the £16m he hopes to pay for Blackburn Rovers’ star centre-half Phil Jones, if the deal for the three goes through.
But while agreement has been reached between the two clubs on the transfer fees to be paid, a lot of work remains to be done in talks with the players.
Gibson’s move should be the easiest to complete.
The 23-year-old burst on to the scene in the 2008-09 season as one of a batch of talented young players coming through at the club, a group which included Fraizer Campbell, Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans.
But the midfielder has been unable to sustain his early impressive form and after a patchy couple of seasons at Old Trafford which have seen him come in for some tough criticism from Manchester United fans, he would welcome a move away from the club if the move was right.
He has had good reports on Sunderland from all of the United players who have played at the Stadium of Light in recent years and a move to an upwardly mobile club which finished 10th in the Premier League would appeal.
Getting O’Shea and Brown to the Stadium of Light will not be so easy, though.
Both players are internationals who will see themselves as natural Champions League standard players after a decade spent at Old Trafford.
O’Shea, 30, and Brown, 31, are reaching the veteran stage of their careers but will feel they still have plenty to contribute.
Their ambitions might still lie with a top four side and certainly a top eight outfit and Sunderland have their work cut out in pushing those deals over the line.
Both players’ agents will be working hard on other potential destinations, now that United seem happy to let them leave.
But Sunderland have declared their interest first and will hope that their early move to accquire the two defenders will give them a head start on rivals.
If the moves do go through it will certainly soften the blow of Henderson’s departure.
While Gibson is not of the standard required to take Manchester United forward, he would be an asset to Sunderland.
But it is O’Shea and Brown who could really boost Sunderland, not only injecting genuine quality and strength into Sunderland’s back line but also bringing versatility – both players are equally as happy at centre-half or full-back.