13 players Jose Mourinho has missed out on as Man Utd manager

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Jose Mourinho has missed out on several players since taking over as Manchester United manager – and he’s never been shy to go public about it.

“One thing is what I want and another thing is what is going to happen,” Mourinho said during United’s pre-season tour of USA, and it is a tale that has been told before.

Here are just some of the players we know about that the Portuguese manager has missed out since taking over at Old Trafford in 2016.

Mats Hummels

Mourinho’s struggles to sign a central defender are nothing new, and in 2016 Bayern Munich defender Hummels turned down a move to United, though it wasn’t really the new manager’s fault.

“There just was not that one English club where the overall package was fitting,” he was quoted in the Manchester Evening News.

“The overall package means: a club which fascinates me; a club I have always wanted to join, and where the sporting constellation is right, and which of course plays Champions League football next season.

“And because of the latter one club was ruled out, and you can envision which club that was.”

Raphael Varane

“It’s not easy to say ‘no’ to Jose Mourinho,” said Varane, when he did just that in 2016.

Mourinho had signed the serial final winner for Real Madrid in 2011 – where he still is to this day – and Varane claimed there had been “indirect contact” again this summer while he was away starring in France’s World Cup win.

Instead of Hummels or Varane, though, United ended up with Eric Bailly, who became Mourinho’s first signing and cost the club £30million. However, due to a string of injuries, he has managed to appear in just half of the side’s Premier League games since.

READ: The 10 major finals Raphael Varane has played in – and the 10 he has won

N’Golo Kante

The same summer, Mourinho targeted a strong central midfielder to add to his side, famously ending up splashing out £89m on Paul Pogba who is still yet to win over his critics.

But first, he turned to key Leicester midfielder and Pogba’s countryman Kante, reportedly phoning the now-Chelsea man though it was too late, as his mind was already made up.

“It was amazing to have Mourinho call me, even though I’d been warned before how he would appeal to me,”” Kante said.

“I listened to his arguments about why I should move to United, but at that time I was hesitant between staying at Leicester or leaving for Chelsea.

“My discussions with them were already well underway. But when I spoke, I had a good feeling with Conte.”

Kante was vital as he lifted his second successive Premier League trophy in a season United finished sixth, the midfielder joining Pogba and Varane in France’s World Cup winning squad in Russia.

Renato Sanches

Another midfield player Mourinho chased that summer was Bayern Munich bound Sanches, who the manager had been keeping tabs on since his early Benfica days.

“I arrived late,” Mourinho told Portuguese TV after the Community Shield. “I signed in May, we started talking a week before, but completely out of the process. If I had arrived earlier, I’d fight for him.

“Manchester United watched Renato many times and maybe I did it even more.”

Sanches won the 2016 Golden Boy award, making 25 appearances in his debut season in Germany before spending an unsuccessful spell on loan at Swansea last term.

Breel Embolo

With the 19-year-old forward looking for an exit from Basel in 2016, Mourinho was certainly interested, but the teenager opted for German club Schalke instead.

Christian Heidel, the sporting director of the German club, claimed that United were “desperate” to sign Embolo, saying: ““It’s nothing new that he is a great player. There is a reason why Mourinho desperately wanted to sign him for Manchester United.”

An reportedly in January 2018, Embolo was given another chance to move to Old Trafford after managing just six goals for Schalke, and he said: “In the winter a few requests came. It’s clear that clubs become alert when a young player does not play.

“Not once (had he considered leaving). I have found a family club with Schalke, in which football is lived. When I was hurt I had so much support, was purposefully and gently reintroduced.”

United signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free in 2016, with the Swedish giant scoring 28 times in 46 games – over double the total of any team-mate – as the side won the EFL Cup and Europa League.

Embolo is reportedly set to join Lokomotiv Moscow this summer.


Another player Mourinho has reportedly rekindled some kind of interest in this summer is Willian, who he tried to sign a year after the Brazilian won the player of the year award in the manager’s final season at Stamford Bridge.

“There were a few conversations with my agent. I worked with Mourinho and I became his friend as well,” he said after finding himself on the bench for much of the 2016-17 campaign.

“He likes me a lot and I like him a lot as a coach and as a person. He has put his trust in me and in my work, and I was very grateful to him.

“Manchester came to me, they talked with my agent, but nothing happened, because Chelsea would not negotiate me in any way and I’m very happy at Chelsea.”

The former Stamford Bridge boss did manage to do business with his old employees that summer, bringing Nemanja Matic in to partner Pogba in midfield, while Willian went on to have another frustrating season before Chelsea bizarrely turned down a number of big-money offers from Barcelona this year.


Prior to his world-record move to PSG, Mourinho and United were incredibly keen on Neymar, who reportedly told the club that he would join them if they paid up his Barcelona contract.

Journalist Duncan Castles, who holds a very close relationship with Mourinho, told the Transfer Window podcast in 2018: “Manchester United tried really hard to get Neymar last summer, I should say Jose Mourinho tried to.

“A lot of conversations with the player, telling him he wanted to bring him from Barcelona to the Premier League – and Neymar encouraged that.

“But they were blown out of the water by PSG in terms of scale of salary and obviously the willingness to pay the release cause.

“I’m sure the interest remains. You can see that the conversations between Mourinho and Neymar had an affect on the player.”

Antoine Griezmann

Long before Griezmann’s wonderful video announcing he would turn down Barcelona, the French forward was being chased by Mourinho, who made his interest clear in the summer of 2017 as well as the following January.

The attacker is reportedly a big fan of Mourinho’s, but revealed he had not spoken to the manager when a move was close in 2017, when Atletico were under a transfer ban and unable to sign a replacement.

“No, that’s totally made up. False. It was my decision. I communicated it to the club. That’s it,” he told Four Four Two, refuting the claims he phoned Mourinho to tell him his decision.

“I have stayed mainly because of the transfer ban. Atletico needed me now more than ever and I felt I had to stay. It would be dirty to leave. I wouldn’t have been myself, or the person that I feel I am today, if I had left this club in that way.”

United did sign Romelu Lukaku that summer, filling the void left by Wayne Rooney’s return to Everton and Ibrahimovic’s injury problems, before Mourinho brought Alexis Sanchez to the club in January, ending all rumours of Griezmann moving to Old Trafford.

Alvaro Morata

Another forward who, probably more so than Griezmann, looked destined to move to United in 2017 was Morata, with Mourinho keen to reunite himself with his former Real Madrid player.

However he was left frustrated by his former club, saying: “The selling club is the one who puts the price on the player, the buying club doesn’t. If a club want to buy our players, we set the price.

“Morata is a Real Madrid player. Madrid made a decision and we didn’t reach an agreement with them. It is simple. It is a shame.

“He is a player who made it to the first team with me. We have a special liking for him, he is someone special. I enjoyed seeing his growth at Juventus and Madrid.

“It is like that. I don’t think he can end with us.” Morata joined Chelsea a week later, though he was rumoured to be heading for an exit this summer after just a year and 11 Premier League goals.

Gareth Bale

This one is ongoing. And has been for some time.

READ: Gareth Bale to Manchester United: The definitive 2018 month-by-month guide

Ivan Perisic

It was reported that Mourinho wanted Perisic after an impressive World Cup, but the interest goes back to 2017, when the winger signed a new deal with Inter.

During his punditry in Russia, Mourinho stated bluntly: “Perisic, he went from Croatia to Dortmund to Wolfsburg to Inter. I don’t know why he didn’t come to Manchester when I wanted him.”

This summer’s interest was reported to be dead as Inter inflated the 29-year-old’s price following the tournament, but Perisic added fuel to the fire at the weekend.

“Honestly, I would like to test myself in all of the biggest leagues but the question is will I have the time, I am 29 and working to extend my career as long as I can,” he said.

“Yes, I’d like to play in England and Spain but I don’t know if there is enough time left.”

Justin Kluivert

“For me, at that moment, there was only one club in England and that was Arsenal,” is what Justin’s father Patrick said after rebuffing United – 20 years before his son did the same.

Ajax star Kluivert was on the radar of many European clubs after an impressive season in Eredivisie, scoring 10 goals in 30 appearances.

“I have heard the rumours but I haven’t spoken to Mourinho, a move to Manchester United wouldn’t make sense, for now,” he told Dutch media in early 2018, before joining Roma in the summer.

Mourinho wanted a winger to replace Anthony Martial, who had looked set to leave the club, though a move away is yet to materialise.

READ: 19 footballer sons looking to follow in their famous fathers’ footsteps

Harry Maguire

“Every player wants to play at the highest level. I’ve just come back from playing at a World Cup, where I really enjoyed the high pressure of the games, it was something that I really thrived off,” said Maguire, amidst rumours clubs were chasing him after his impressive performances in Russia.

“Leicester have been unbelievable to me and I’m really happy there but I’m also an ambitious player and everyone wants to play at the top.”

However his club are reportedly holding out for at least £75million – what Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk – which has put United off a transfer, with Mourinho reportedly needing to offload one of his central defenders in order to finance any move for a new player.

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