Within a few weeks of becoming caretaker manager at Manchester United at the end of 2018, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had already mentioned Jadon Sancho as the kind of player he wanted to build a team around.
Two-and-a-half years later United landed Sancho for £72.9million, adding another exciting young player to the squad. But if Solskjaer was dreaming of landing Sancho in the early days of his United reign, we can be pretty certain that the England winger wasn’t the only name on his dream transfer wish-list.
Right up at the top would have been Solskjaer’s fellow countryman Erling Haaland.
He came close to landing his man 18 months ago, only to miss out to Borussia Dortmund. Now he might have 12 months to put United in pole position to land Haaland at the second attempt.
The 21-year-old goal machine has been the subject of interest from Chelsea this summer, but it looks like Dortmund are determined to keep him having already profited from the Sancho sale. Next year Haaland has a release clause of around €75million that is due to become active and at that price half of Europe will want to try and sign him.
Having handed Solskjaer a new three-year contract, United might already have one advantage. The two Norwegian strikers are close and Solskjaer managed Haaland for a while at Molde.
But it will take more than a Norway connection to convince Haaland that United are the club for him in 2022, when he is likely to have suitors at the biggest clubs in England, Spain and Italy.
Having bagged 57 goals in 59 games for Dortmund in 18 months, lots of clubs will see Haaland as the closest guarantee to goals you can get for the next decade. United will expect to lose Edinson Cavani next summer, when he is 35, so they will have to sign a striker and Haaland fits the bill.
To make the Norwegian link really count for something, Solskjaer has to show Haaland and his controversial agent Mino Raiola — who has a complicated relationship with United as a result of representing Paul Pogba — that he is leading the club back to former glories.
Haaland will only move to a club that are competing for domestic titles and the Champions League so in the next 12 months Solskjaer has to take United towards those targets.
If he can do that and show Haaland that medals can be won at Old Trafford, then United could well be favourites to sign the striker and deliver Solskjaer two of his dream targets.
He’s certainly never hidden his support for Haaland or his admiration for his quality. In February 2020, the month after United had missed out on signing him, Solskjaer broke one of his golden rules to praise Haaland.
“I normally never comment on opposition players but since I’ve had Erling I’m just delighted for him, a top boy, an absolutely fantastic kid you want the best for,” he said.
Earlier this year Solskjaer revealed he was still in touch with Haaland.
“When you have had kids and players come through as a coach, you follow them and I keep in touch with Erling,” he said back in February. “It’s great to see him become the player he has become. I know he will work to improve all the time.
“He’s a Dortmund player and we just wish him well there and let’s see what life will bring later on.”
In 12 months we’ll find out what life will bring. For United to be able to use their advantage they need Solskjaer to deliver this season.
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