Arsenal are using Manchester Uniteds swoop for Robin van Persie as leverage in their chase for misfit Nani.

Arsenal are using Manchester United’s swoop for Robin van Persie as leverage in their chase for misfit Nani.

The Gunners have opened talks with United over a January move for the Portugal winger.

The Old Trafford club want in the region of £20million for Nani, who has fallen out of favour with manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

But Arsenal want a cheaper fee and are highlighting Van Persie’s summer move north in their attempts to secure a lower price.

The Holland striker’s £24m move to Old Trafford was largely smooth and pain-free. And the north London club are using the fact they did not turn Van Persie’s switch into a drawn-out saga as a bargaining tool in their discussions for Nani.

Sportsmail revealed Arsene Wenger’s interest in the 26-year-old winger earlier this month. Chelsea are also emerging as contenders to sign Nani.

Meanwhile, Everton’s Nikica Jelavic is the latest striker Arsenal have looked at in their search for a new centre forward next month.

A senior scout ran the rule over the Croatia star in Everton’s 2-1 win over West Ham on December 22.

Arsenal also have a strong interest in Southampton’s 17-year-old left back Luke Shaw.

Wenger will continue to play Theo Walcott at centre forward as he attempts to repeat the conversion trick he performed with Thierry Henry.

Walcott has responded superbly upon getting his chance to play up front during the last two Arsenal games — key wins at Reading and Wigan which steadied the team after their shock Capital One Cup loss at Bradford.

‘I like the signs I have seen,’ said Wenger. ‘It is an interesting challenge. I think he can take it on. I always said that one day he would play through the middle and it grew in his brain.

‘He is now 23. I decided to play Thierry Henry at 23 through the middle because you have to learn a lot before.

‘The fact that you play in other positions as well helps your technique. On the wing you need a shorter technique against the line, once you play in the middle you can go on both sides. From the age of 19 to 23, Theo has learnt a lot. Now we will sometimes play him on the flanks, sometimes through the middle.

‘Let’s not put him under too much pressure. He has played two games and you have to be open-minded in our job and give people a chance. If they take it, it’s good. If they don’t, he will still be a fantastic winger.

‘I am confident he will do well. It’s a bit early to compare him to Thierry Henry but Thierry gives him advice. It’s always important. Theo’s a very intelligent boy. He understands very quickly when you tell him something. That’s why I think he can do very well in this position.’

Arsenal’s contract talks with Walcott have reopened but there is no agreement imminent. His deal expires in the summer, but he has rejected the offer on the table and from Tuesday will be eligible under the Bosman rules to agree a deal to join an overseas club on a free transfer at the end of the season.

‘I want him to stay and I have always been consistent on that,’ said Wenger.

In addition to Nani, Wenger is in pursuit of Barcelona’s David Villa, but he has not ruled out another short-term loan deal to bring Henry back to the club for a third time.

The 35-year-old New York Red Bulls striker, who scored twice in seven games on loan at the Emirates last year, trained with Arsenal yesterday as part of his programme to stay in shape during the MLS close season.

‘I’ve not lost interest in him,’ said Wenger. ‘He’s coming to practise with us. He’s in better physical shape than he was last time he was here. Our relationship is very close. I have not completely ruled it out but I have not spoken about it with him at all.

‘He has had a second spell at the club that was very successful. You have to be cautious that it’s not one time too many.’ – Daily Mail