Reports suggest Manchester United may have scored an early psychological victory over Arsenal ahead of the teams' titanic weekend match by winning the race to sign Chris Smalling.
The 20-year-old Fulham defender, an Arsenal target, today agreed to move to United at the end of the season.
The highly-rated Smalling has appeared in just nine Premiership games for the south west London side. His transfer completes an astonishing rise to stardom for a player who was plying his trade at non-League Maidstone just two years ago.
"Manchester United have agreed terms for the transfer of Chris Smalling from Fulham," said a club spokesman. "Chris has agreed personal terms with the club and will join for the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign. He will remain at Fulham until the end of the current season."
A fee in the region of £7 million is rumoured to have sealed the deal.
"It just looks like Manchester United offered more money than us,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
The Smalling deal will scupper gossip that United are interested in Juventus' strong man Giorgio Chiellini but will raise speculation that Fergie is preparing to off-load centre halves Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown.
United travel to the Emirates stadium on Sunday, Jan. 31. Sir Alex will be hoping to open up a five point Premiership lead over the Gunners.