Phil Jones’ £16m arrival at Manchester United is set to spark the departure of up to three Old Trafford stars.
Sunderland are poised to move for Wes Brown, Darron Gibson and possibly John O’Shea, after Sir Alex Ferguson homed in on the young Blackburn prospect.
The Reds boss is looking to the future with the imminent signing of the versatile 19-year-old central-half – and that will have direct consequences for out-of-favour Brown. Sunderland want to offer the Mancunian the kind regular football that eluded him last term following allegations of a pre-season bust-up with the Reds boss.
Defender Jones can also operate effectively in midfield, where Gibson could find himself surplus to requirements.
The Wearsiders, with cash to spend after the sale of Jordan Henderson to Liverpool, are in need of a replacement – and have targeted the Republic of Ireland international as the second part of a potential triple swoop.
Fellow Irishman O’Shea – who has been used reliably in midfield and defence by the Reds – is thought to also be on the Stadium of Light club’s wanted list.
Fergie’s surprise move for Jones is part of his plan to provide a young supporting cast – along side Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans – to his first-choice defensive partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Vidic will be 30 in October and Ferdinand 33 a month later.
While Kenny Dalglish snapped up United target Henderson from Sunderland, Fergie moved quickly to beat him to Jones.
The teenager had been on the Reds’ radar, but was a target for next summer until the Anfielders showed interest. He had a medical at United’s Carrington training HQ yesterday before joining Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley on the England Under-21s flight to Denmark for the European Championships.