In a recent discussion with ESPN, Ed Woodward, the former executive vice-chairman at Manchester United, provided an explanation for the club’s inability to secure signings for Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham during his tenure.
Throughout his nine years leading the recruitment strategy at Old Trafford, Woodward faced substantial criticism for the club’s investment decisions, which often saw significant sums spent on players who failed to live up to expectations, alongside offering contracts considered excessively high in value.
Despite these challenges, recruitment saw notable improvements under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It was widely believed that United were in a prime position to sign Haaland from RB Salzburg, especially since Solskjaer had been instrumental in giving the Norwegian his professional start at Molde.
However, Haaland’s move to Dortmund occurred despite a £20m release clause in his contract, and he later joined Manchester City for £60m, where he has since scored 71 goals in 77 appearances. Woodward remarked that Haaland was “always destined” for City, hinting at the player’s familial ties to the club.
Similarly, United’s efforts to attract Jude Bellingham also fell short. Despite the personal attention from Solskjaer, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Bryan Robson during his visit to United’s training facility, Bellingham opted for Dortmund due to the promise of more consistent playtime. Bellingham’s career trajectory mirrored Haaland’s, with a subsequent transfer to Real Madrid for a staggering £100m.
Woodward’s reflections shed light on the complex dynamics of football transfers, highlighting the challenges Manchester United faced in securing top talent despite their considerable efforts and the allure of their historic club.