Players Rejected by Manchester United: While Manchester United may be one of the most iconic football clubs globally, their history is dotted with some painful rejections. These aren’t just any rejections; they’re about the remarkable players who slipped through their fingers.
Players Rejected by Manchester United
From Erling Haaland to Ronaldo Nazario, this list unveils the legendary talents that Manchester United once had the chance to sign but ultimately let go.
1. Erling Haaland
Back in 2019, during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as Manchester United coach, a promising deal to acquire Erling Haaland was on the brink of reality. The prospect of signing Haaland was particularly enticing because of the pre-existing relationship between the player and Ole, having collaborated during their time at Molde.
According to ESPN reports, by January 2020, the deal was inches away from being sealed. However, Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, abruptly halted the proceedings. The reasons cited were exorbitant agency fees demanded by Mino Raiola and concerns regarding the feasibility of the release clause.
In hindsight, rejecting a player of Haaland’s caliber seems baffling. Regardless of what Haaland’s agent demanded, securing a player of his potential is typically an opportunity worth pursuing without hesitation.
Ironically, Haaland ultimately joined Borussia Dortmund that year, and in 2022, he indeed graced Manchester. Unfortunately for United, it was the blue side of the city he landed in. In less than two full seasons, the Norwegian striker has left Manchester United with profound regrets. The world of football can indeed be quite unpredictable, as United transitioned from rejecting Haaland to securing a similar talent, albeit at a considerable cost of 75 million euros.
2. Julian Alvarez
Manchester United’s misfortunes extended to the case of Julian Alvarez. What makes this rejection even more regrettable is the fact that, unlike with Haaland, they had multiple opportunities to secure his talents. According to reports by Fabrizio Romano, Julian Alvarez’s services were offered to Manchester United on numerous occasions. However, the club consistently turned him down, primarily because they were hesitant to make a significant financial commitment in the absence of a permanent manager. This transpired during the reign of Ralf Rangnick as the interim manager.
The consequence of Manchester United’s reluctance was that their city rivals, Manchester City, seized the opportunity and secured Julian Alvarez. The result? A sensational signing that has left United with palpable regret. Alvarez’s achievements on the international stage, especially during the World Cup with Argentina, and his consistently stellar performances for City underline what a formidable strike partnership with Haaland he could have formed. Missing out on such talent, as it turns out, isn’t a new phenomenon for Manchester United. It’s almost as though this pattern of missing out on world-class goal machines is embedded in their football DNA, extending all the way back to the 1990s.
3. Ronaldo Nazario
Back in 1996, the opportunity arose for Manchester United to acquire a 19-year-old Ronaldo Nazario. However, PSV Eindhoven demanded a world record fee, and Manchester United made the critical decision not to proceed. In hindsight, this decision stands as one of the costliest misses in football history.
Barcelona, undeterred by the hefty price tag, willingly paid for Ronaldo’s services. The result? An astonishing debut season in which Ronaldo scored an impressive 47 goals in just 49 appearances. His stellar performance led to him being named FIFA World Player of the Year that year and the subsequent one. One can only imagine the yearning Manchester United must feel, knowing they had the opportunity to secure such a legendary talent.
4. Virgil van Dijk
Prior to Virgil van Dijk’s transfer to Liverpool in January 2018, he was linked to a number of clubs, including Manchester United. However, Manchester United appeared reluctant to invest significantly in securing the services of this talented defender from Southampton.
Chris Kamara, as revealed on the Proper Football Podcast, once advised then-Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho to sign van Dijk. Mourinho’s response was candid: “these lot won’t give me the money for him.” But it’s a decision that has come back to haunt them.
Ironically, Manchester United passed on the opportunity to acquire van Dijk for a reported 75 million pounds in 2018. They subsequently found themselves shelling out 80 million pounds for Harry Maguire just a year later after witnessing the transformative impact van Dijk had on Liverpool in a remarkably short span.
Rumors even suggest that Manchester United opted for Victor Lindelof over van Dijk. While Lindelof is undoubtedly a talent in his own right, the question remains: how could they let go of the opportunity to sign someone of Virgil van Dijk’s caliber?
5. Matthijs de Ligt
Manchester United decided against signing Matthijs de Ligt, the 2018 Golden Boy winner. Their reasoning? An irrational fear that he might gain weight. This judgment might now haunt them, as de Ligt has evolved into a top-class defender.
6. Eden Hazard
Back when Eden Hazard was just 21, Manchester United had a golden opportunity to secure his services. At that time, Hazard had already earned the title of Ligue 1 Player of the Year in consecutive seasons. However, the deal didn’t materialize. Why?
The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm and had his reservations. While he recognized Hazard’s immense talent, Ferguson deemed the 34 million pounds price tag excessive. Additionally, he was reluctant to part with an additional 6 million pounds to the player’s agent. As a result, Manchester United decided to pass on Hazard.
In retrospect, it’s a decision they undoubtedly regret. Eden Hazard went on to become a dominant force in the Premier League, causing nightmares for opposing teams during his time in England.
7. Moises Caicedo
In the case of Moises Caicedo, it’s worth noting that Manchester United didn’t pass on him in 2023. Instead, their decision came earlier, during his teenage years when he was still plying his trade in Ecuador with Independiente del Valle.
The rationale behind their rejection at the time was the belief that he wasn’t yet prepared for the rigors of the Premier League. Despite their reservations, Brighton took a chance on him in 2021 when he was just 19 years old and promptly demonstrated that he was indeed ready to compete in the Premier League.
While Moises Caicedo’s current form at Chelsea may not be enviable, it’s undeniable that Manchester United might now be regretting their earlier decision, especially considering the significant financial gain they could have enjoyed from Chelsea’s rumored 100 million-pound deal.
Manchester United also had an opportunity to secure the services of the promising young Croatian center-back- Josko Gvardiol, but they opted to sign Lisandro Martinez instead.
In all fairness, this rejection might not be as regrettable as the others. Lisandro Martinez has proven to be a dependable and solid defender, and he came at a considerably lower cost. While Gvardiol is younger, it’s worth noting that Martinez, at 25, is by no means an aged player. As such, Manchester United likely harbors fewer regrets regarding this particular decision.
The list of players rejected by Manchester United is astonishing, spanning from contemporary stars like Haaland and Julian Alvarez to legends like Ronaldo Nazario and potential world-beaters like Virgil van Dijk and Eden Hazard. These missed opportunities serve as a stark reminder that even the greatest clubs can make costly blunders in the world of football. As Manchester United fans ponder what might have been, they can only speculate about the unrealized potential that slipped away. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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