The Daily Mail was one of the first sources to report the potential move, reporting on Oct. 19 that United, as well as Premier League rivals Chelsea and Tottenham, are allegedly interested in acquiring Shawcross’ signature.
However, the move has since been put in doubt by the player’s current manager at Stoke, Tony Pulis. As reported by the BBC, the club have “ruled out the possibility of captain Ryan Shawcross leaving the club in the January transfer window.”
When asked about the potential move, Pulis retorted:
"No chance. It has been a good marriage. Ryan is our captain, he is only just 25. We won't see the best of him for another two or three years."
So it would appear that a return to Old Trafford may be off the cards, with his current club adamant in retaining one of their star players.
But will Pulis’ words hold true in the long term?
One point to consider is that Shawcross currently has 18 months left on his existing contract. While that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for Stoke to hit the panic button, there remains the possibility of Shawcross walking away for nothing in the summer of 2014.
With this thought lingering in the back of Pulis’ mind, perhaps he may be more willing to do business with Manchester United.
Furthermore, the statement that was reported by the BBC specifically noted that the centre-half will not be leaving “in the January transfer window.”
Is this a subtle hint that Shawcross’ move may in fact be completed come next summer? For Stoke, this would certainly make more sense, as they would have more time to search for a replacement and would not have to worry about the inflationary effect of shopping in January.
They could also still command a considerable price for the 25-year-old, whereas waiting until the following January to cash in on Shawcross could see him leave for a cut-price fee.
Of course, there is still a chance that Shawcross would prefer to stay at Stoke, thus repaying the faith that the club showed in him by paying an initial £1 million for his services back in January 2008.
If he were to sign an extension to his current contract, the possibility of an eventual move to United would effectively be off, unless the club are willing to pay over-the-odds for his signature.
That being said, it is hard to imagine such a scenario given the history Shawcross has with Manchester United. Having been a part of the club’s academy since the age of 15, the opportunity to represent United’s first team on a more regular basis would seem to be an offer too good to refuse.
So was Pulis’ reply a bluff? Was it a subtle sign that the move may perhaps be delayed until next summer?
Or is this story merely a rumor that will never come to fruition?
Given Manchester United’s current defensive woes, their fans may well hope not, as Shawcross could be a great addition and a real long-term fixture in the club’s defensive backline.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that. Stoke have made their position clear: if United wish to sign their former schoolboy starlet, then it’s not going to be easy.
It’s time for Sir Alex Ferguson to prove just how much he desires Shawcross’ services, but stay posted for more updates on this evolving story as we draw closer to the January transfer window.