The 5 players targeted by Solskjaer at Man Utd & who they signed instead
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Manchester United manager ended ignominiously, but things might have been different if they’d signed the five world-class players he wanted.
After stepping in for Jose Mourinho in December 2018, Solsjkaer inspired United to an impressive run of results and landed the job on a full-time basis four months later.
But United were inconsistent under his management, capable of beating City or Liverpool one week before losing at home to Sheffield United the next.
The Norweigan was backed in the transfer market; Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo all arrived at Old Trafford during his time at the club.
But, in an interview with The Athletic, Solskjaer has revealed five players he wanted to sign that probably would’ve elevated United to heights not seen since Sir Alex Ferguson was in the dug-out.
We’ve reviewed the five players Solskjaer identified as transfer targets, why they weren’t signed and who United purchased instead.
“The expectations are very high but we can’t live in the same era as when I played,” Solskjaer said. “We had Arsenal and Chelsea as rivals towards the end. Now, most teams have money or even if they don’t, they don’t need to sell.
“Back then, Wayne (Rooney) and Cristiano (Ronaldo) were the best young players and we signed them. Now, United can’t just go and buy Evan Ferguson. We couldn’t buy the players I mentioned to the club.”
The main one was Haaland, whom Solskjaer recommended to the United hierarchy before he’d made his debut for Salzburg. Wonder what happened to him?
In his last season in English football, Kane scored 30 Premier League goals for a struggling Tottenham side. No wonder Solskjaer was extremely keen to bring the striker to Old Trafford.
“I would have signed Kane every day of the week and my understanding was that he wanted to come,” the former United striker claimed. “But the club didn’t have the budget with the financial constraints from COVID-19, there was no bottomless pit.”
Erik ten Hag was also eager to bring the England captain to United over the summer, but strained finances prevented the move from becoming a reality.
Kane has since joined Bayern Munich and has made a supreme goalscoring start to life in Germany. United bolstered their attacking numbers by signing Rasmus Hojlund from Atalanta.
Bellingham was just 16 when he was tearing the Championship apart with Birmingham City, sparking interest from Europe’s top clubs.
United made a serious move for the highly-rated midfielder in 2020 as they invited him and his parents to Carrington for a guided tour of their training facilities.
He also held talks with Solskjaer, Sir Alex Ferguson and United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward during his visit to the training ground.
But Bellingham chose to sign for Borussia Dortmund, partly because he believed he’d get more playing time in Germany. It’s safe to say his decision was vindicated.
“We wanted Jude Bellingham badly – he’s a Man United player, but I respect he chose Dortmund,” Solskjaer said. “That was probably sensible.
“But it’s why I respect Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Dan James and Jadon. Young players prepared to come into a team that wasn’t 100 per cent there like it was when I arrived.”
United instead signed Donny van de Beek in the summer of 2020, but the Dutch midfielder has been extremely underwhelming in United colours.
Solskjaer provided a fascinating insight into United’s transfer policy when explaining how the club failed to sign Caicedo from the Ecuadorian club Independiente del Valle.
“We discussed Moises Caicedo, but we felt we needed players ready for there and then,” the former United boss admitted.
“Brighton are very good at letting players come from abroad and find their feet for a year and a half. At United, you don’t have that luxury and that has cost the club loads of players.”
In fairness, United signed Fernandes in January 2020 instead. The Portugal playmaker is a totally different profile of player but has arguably been their most impressive acquisition of the past decade.
Rice had impressed with his performances for West Ham and England by the summer of 2021, leading to widespread reports of United’s interest in signing him.
Instead, the club chose to invest in Sancho, Ronaldo and Raphael Varane and leave the midfielder for the following year. By the end of the 2021-22 campaign, Solskjaer had been sacked and United signed Casemiro to fill the void in the heart of their team.
The Norweigan believed Rice wouldn’t have cost United the £105million Arsenal ended up paying. It would have been a fabulous signing.