In a recent interview, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has detailed some of the players that he asked Manchester United to target during his time as manager – and he had some superstar names on his shortlist.
The Norwegian has been away from football ever since United sacked him in November 2021. Now, in a wide-ranging talk with The Athletic, Solskjaer has detailed his side of the story from behind the scenes at Old Trafford.
In almost three years “at the wheel”, the former Red Devils striker brought some big names to Manchester. Solskjaer’s transfers included Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Bruno Fernandes to name a few.
However, he has revealed several other stars who he wanted the club to sign during his tenure.
The 5 players Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted at Old Trafford
United’s former coach explained how the pandemic in 2020 meant that Man United could not just spend endlessly. Despite this, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still wanted backing to secure multiple big names.
“We couldn’t buy the players I mentioned to the club,” said Solskjaer, via The Athletic. “[Like] Erling Haaland, before he made his Salzburg debut. Declan Rice, who wouldn’t have cost what he did in the summer.
“We discussed Moises Caicedo, but we felt we needed players ready for there and then.”
In 2023, every football fan knows the quality of the stars that the former United boss mentioned. Haaland is a Ballon d’Or candidate after breaking records to help Man City secure a treble. Meanwhile, Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo have made £100m moves to two of United’s old rivals – Arsenal and Chelsea.
So, Solskjaer’s wish list from a few years ago must sting with a case of “what if?” for the Red Devils faithful. Unfortunately for Man United fans, it gets worse.
“We wanted Jude Bellingham badly,” added Solskjaer. “He’s a Man United player, but I respect he chose Dortmund. That was probably sensible.
“I would have signed Harry Kane every day of the week and my understanding was that he wanted to come. But the club didn’t have the budget with the financial constraints from COVID-19; there was no bottomless pit.”
Imagine a team with Rice and Caicedo anchoring the midfield, Bellingham running box-to-box, and either Haaland or Harry Kane upfront. Now that would take some beating – if all the players developed to the quality that they have today of course.
Sadly, though, these moves to Manchester United did not materialize for these players. One man that did go to Old Trafford, however, was Cristiano Ronaldo.
Solskjaer: Ronaldo signing “felt so right but turned out wrong”
CR7’s return to Manchester seemed to hail their return to glory. Conversely, the Red Devils finished sixth in Ronaldo’s first season back, which also saw Solskjaer sacked. The Norwegian shared his thoughts on the Portuguese icon’s arrival back at the club.
“It was a decision that was very difficult to turn down,” he said. “And I felt we had to take it, but it turned out so wrong.
“It felt so right when he signed and the fans felt that at the Newcastle game, when Old Trafford was rocking. He was still one of the best goal-scorers in the world, he was looking strong.”
Ronaldo finished the 2021/22 season with 24 goals for Man United. Some suggested that the forward was to blame for Solskjaer’s dismissal, but the manager suggests a more wide-ranging issue instead.
“When you have a group, you need everyone to pull in the same direction. When things didn’t go right, you could see certain players and egos come out.”
The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era seems like a distant memory now for Man United. If they had signed the likes of Haaland, Rice, and Bellingham, things may have turned out very differently for both club and coach.
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