Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham were targets for Manchester United years before the players joined their current teams.
Former Old Trafford manager Ed Woodward has finally revealed why neither player chose to wear red.
Haaland ended up joining German giants Borussia Dortmund during the January transfer window of the 2019–20 season, having established himself as a key figure at Red Bull Salzburg throughout the first half of the season.
At the mere age of sixteen, Bellingham made his debut in the Championship at about the same time, playing brilliantly for Birmingham. He followed in Haaland’s footsteps and moved to Dortmund in the summer of 2020.
Declan Rice was also a target for United that year, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager at the time, could not fight off his rivals and sign any of the three players he had targeted.
Woodward, who was in control of day-to-day operations at United until early 2022 and was previously United’s executive vice-chairman, told ESPN that the team believed Haaland was destined for City, where his father, Alf Inge, had played, and that Dortmund’s “minutes” promise would not be fulfilled. The Norwegian ended up signing at City in 2022.
The team has been steadily losing ground since 2013, and most people believe that Woodward’s time at United was a disaster.
“Ole wanted to bring down the age of the squad, so he identified three young players and told the club they should prioritise signing them,” ESPN has been told by one of Solskjaer’s ex-teammates.
“United messed up moves for Haaland and Bellingham and didn’t even make an effort for Rice. But they did sign Donny van de Beek, despite him not even being a player that Ole had identified as a target.”
Haaland’s team had demanded a release clause, and it had been claimed at the time that United would not budge, even though he too was guaranteed a greater immediate role at Dortmund.
In March 2020, Sir Alex Ferguson personally gave Bellingham a tour of United’s training facility and arranged a meeting with the then-teenager and his family. Haaland, meanwhile, had a past relationship with Solskjaer having played for Molde, a former club.