Inside Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s strategy to ensure that United don’t repeat their previous Erling Haaland mistake – as they begin to plot their next move for the striker
Manchester United have come in for broad criticism in past years over their transfer dealings.
United have been accused of shelling out on inflated transfer fees, as well as being too ponderous with their business – with the brunt of the fire aimed at out-going executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
But perhaps their biggest transfer blunder in recent memory was not spending on a young Erling Haaland, who was handed his debut by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when the pair were back at Molde.
It was that failure to snap up Haaland previously which has prompted an overhaul from Solskjaer, as he bids to ensure United learn from their previous shortcomings in the transfer market.
A report from The Athletic reveals that Haaland was recommended to United by Solskjaer when he managed the Norwegian at Molde.
However, United declined the opportunity to pluck the talented teen from Norway for a fee of just £5m.
Fast forward a few years, and United were toying with the idea of shelling out an astronomically larger outlay to snap up the striking sensation.
Even the lower fee that Haaland will reportedly command next summer is a vast increase on the sum they’d have been asked for back when Solskjaer first flagged the striker to United’s attention.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but that scenario is one the United boss has become determined to avoid repeating.
Solskjaer and the Old Trafford hierarchy have now reportedly retraced old deals, like the potential Haaland one, to see what exactly went wrong.
There has been added scrutiny over whether or not scouting reports were accurate enough and who exactly declined the deals.
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United have made other conscious changes to revamp their transfer strategy over the past 18 months and appear to be working smarter rather than harder to get deals done – even if that means biding their time for the right deal.
The summer capture of Jadon Sancho is a good example.
After initial frustration last year, United have ultimately wound up capturing their primary transfer target for a fee well down on the amount Dortmund demanded 12 months ago.
The winger’s £73m transfer will still dwarf the majority of deals concluded in the Premier League this summer, but it’s a massive £25m less than the £108m they were quoted last year.
The club’s entire transfer policy was blasted by Red Devils icon Gary Neville on his podcast last year, who has previously accused United of paying inflated fees in the market.
“They haven’t got the quality and the experience of football people with the right experience in the club. It looks like a complex, convoluted structure. I’m not sure where the decisions lie,” Neville said on The Gary Neville podcast.
United have made strides to resolve that issue too – strides that have already bore fruit this summer.
The appointments of Darren Fletcher as technical director and John Murtough as director of football were made to streamline the entire transfer procedure – enabling a smoother process with greater accountability.
Fletcher and Murtough delivered a presentation that reportedly played a large role in Rafael Varane deciding his future lay at Old Trafford.
Fletcher possesses vast experience having made 223 Premier League appearances for United over a 20-year spell – making him a perfect fit to plug the gap of footballing experience that Neville had previously pinpointed.
Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)
He’s only been in his new role since March, but the early signs are promising after playing such a key role in the imminent £42m deal for Varane.
Ultimately, Solskjaer and United will be hoping that these tweaks to evolve their transfer policy can have the ultimate pay-off in 12 months’ time when they make their move for Haaland.
The United chief still sees the addition of an elite striker as the final piece in the Old Trafford jigsaw – and his compatriot Haaland is the perfect fit.
The Dortmund striker’s £68m release clause is a bargain fee compared to the £150m Premier League rivals Chelsea were quoted earlier this summer.
Forking out that sum for a striker with a remarkable record of 57 goals in 59 games is something that the Old Trafford hierarchy will sanction with glee.
It’s a deal which could look even better this time next year if United do manage to pull it off – with the Blues set to fork out £100m for Romelu Lukaku and Manchester City being quoted a fee of £150m for Harry Kane this summer.
Despite their Premier League rivals seemingly bowing out of the race for Haaland, United will be hoping Solskjaer’s personal touch can ward off interest from Bayern Munich, who seem to have joined it this week.
The United boss has kept on good terms with the Dortmund hitman, even after missing out on his signature back in January of last year.
Solskjaer has been hailed on more than one occasion for his man-management skills.
Those skills played a part in Solskjaer shrewdly persuading Edinson Cavani to extend his stay in Manchester for another year, handing them another boost in their pursuit of Haaland.
Cavani spending one more year at Old Trafford to fulfill his ambition of netting in front of a packed Stretford End means that the club can afford to play the waiting game for Haaland this year – just as they did with Sancho.
These tweaks may be a simple case of evolution rather than revolution, but Solskjaer is showing that he will seek to make gains wherever he can to restore United to a level of domestic dominance.
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