SUNDERLAND are setting up a last-minute move for Manchester United left-back Alex Buttner as Ki Song-Yeung prepares to move to the Stadium of Light, writes Graeme Anderson.
The South Korean midfielder said goodbye to his team-mates at the Liberty Stadium yesterday in readiness for a season-long stay on Wearside.
And Sunderland hope that by the time Monday’s transfer deadline passes, United defender Buttner will have joined him on loan too.
Ki will arrive at Sunderland with question marks over him having slipped down the pecking order in Wales to the point where he was fifth choice.
He is neither the ‘English creative midfielder’, nor the player with ‘physical presence’ that Paolo Di Canio had outlined in his blueprint to the club’s scouting staff, and as such has a lot to prove.
But Buttner looks the real deal, having won a Premier League champions medal in his first season at Old Trafford, and the Dutchman is determined to perform well enough this season to earn elevation to the senior international squad.
Sunderland, who had on-loan Spurs man Danny Rose excelling in that position last season, would love to add Buttner to their squad.
But the chances of the 24-year-old coming to the Stadium of Light are believed to hinge entirely on Everton’s Leighton Baines completing a move to Old Trafford before the transfer deadline on Monday (11pm).
The young Dutchman, understudy to first-team regular Patrice Evra, is concerned that Baines’ arrival will see him completely sidelined, having already featured little in Manchester United’s pre-season games under new boss David Moyes.
And in recent weeks the former Vitesse defender has been linked with a move to Turkish side Besiktas, although Southampton and Fulham have also been credited with interest.
Sunderland, though, are monitoring the situation of the Dutch Under 21 international who joined United last year and has made five appearances, scoring two goals, and are ready to press their interests once the transfer situation is resolved in the tug-of-war between Manchester and Merseyside.
Moyes believes the addition of Baines and Everton team-mate Marouane Fellaini would keep the champions at the top of the Premier League tree this season and although a £38m joint-bid for the pair has been turned down by the Blues – the latest in a string of improved offers – United are expected to redouble their efforts over the weekend.
If 29-year-old England international Baines – arguably the best left-back in the country – move to Old Trafford, Buttner is likely to be surplus to requirements – at least in the short-term – but while Besiktas have been linked with a bid in the region of £5m, United are believed to favour a loan.
It means that going into the weekend, the Black Cats are facing a potentially frantic close to the transfer window, with Stephane Sessegnon strongly tipped to leave Sunderland in the wake of being arrested on suspicion of drink-driving earlier this week, with one or two other departures not ruled out.
Qatar side El-Jaish, who made a £5m bid for Sessegnon earlier this month are believed to be in pole position, but other interested parties are being sought.
Head coach Paolo Di Canio has said firmly in the past that he doesn’t want Sessegnon to leave, but that was before this week’s incident.
And he also acknowledged that if the club did decide to sell the Benin international, he would want a central midfield playmaker and a replacement striker to arrive at the Stadium of Light on the back of any sale.
Di Canio named a winger and a left-back as his other priority positions ahead of the transfer window closing and he had one of those filled with the arrival of Greek winger Charis Mavrias in a £2.5m move from Panathinaikos just over a week ago.
Ki would fill that central midfield position if the deal goes through and if Sessegnon stays, Di Canio would only require a left-back to complete his squad rebuilding and the prospect of snapping up Buttner on loan is not to be sniffed at.
The young defender’s prefered position is left-back, an area where Sunderland have struggled in recent seasons, but he is also versatile enough to play in central midfield if required.
He signed a five-year contract with United last summer and made his debut in a win over Wigan in which he set up one goal and scored another, earning him the man-of-the-match award.
His second goal for United came in the 5-5 draw with West Brom in the last game of the 2012-13 season.
It is understandable that United would not want to let the Dutchman leave permanently.
But Buttner’s agent, Alexander Bursac has commented: ”If Baines arrives, the chances for Buttner to play are even less then last year. That would be a shame, because Alex wants to play for the Dutch national team next season.
“For Alex it would be better for a younger left-back to come so he could become first choice. He has already proved himself in the Premier League.”