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Five world-class attackers Man United failed to sign since Fergie left

Manchester United’s fortunes have declined since a dominant era under Sir Alex Ferguson, with the Red Devils approaching a decade since their last Premier League triumph.

The intervening years have been a mix of disappointments, as a succession of managers and tried and failed to bring back the silverware success of the Ferguson era. United once boasted a pulling power almost impossible to turn down, but the Red Devils have seen several stars slip through their grasp since Ferguson’s retirement.

Here are five world-class attackers Manchester United failed to sign since Fergie left.

Gareth Bale

Manchester United looked to compensate for Ferguson’s retirement with a statement signing in 2013, as the Red Devils moved to bring in Gareth Bale from Tottenham.

Bale had been named as the PFA Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons in the previous campaign, having scored 26 goals in all competitions for the north London side.

David Moyes was keen on a deal and revealed how hard United pushed for the transfer, only to miss out to Real Madrid who completed a then-world record £85m deal for the Welshman.

“Gareth Bale was probably the first name I thought of when I got the [United] job,” Moyes said, as per JOE.

“I thought Gareth Bale was a Manchester United player. He was the right type. United have a great history of wide players with George Best up to Ryan Giggs and a whole lot of other brilliant ones in between.

“I wanted Gareth Bale to be my first signing at Manchester United. But it was already down the road a bit with Real Madrid. I tried to hijack it. I tried to get him. Manchester United offered more money than Real Madrid. They offered more money to the player.

“We did everything we could to try and get the player. We even had a helicopter at the training ground to take him and bring him back. We thought we had a chance.”

Bale scored 106 goals across eight seasons with Real Madrid, a period which saw him win three La Liga titles and five Champions League winners’ medals. He’d have perhaps been more popular at Old Trafford however, after a difficult end to his relationship with the Spanish side’s supporters.

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller revealed earlier this year that he received an approach from Manchester United, during Louis van Gaal’s time as manager.

Muller has spent his entire career with Bayern Munich, but revealed that he considered leaving following an ‘insane offer’ from the Premier League side.

Van Gaal had worked alongside Muller during his time in charge of Bayern, with the forward having broken into the side as a regular during the Dutchman’s tenure. Van Gaal had been keen to reunite with Muller, but the Germany international revealed that Bayern rejected the approach.

“Bayern clearly rejected the whole thing – despite this insane offer from United,” Muller said in an interview with Merkur. “[But it was a] huge vote of confidence from Bayern.”

Muller has made 640 appearances for Bayern in all competitions, scoring 240 goals, and is the most decorated German footballer of all time. He has won 11 league titles, two Champions League trophies and the World Cup among his honours.

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane’s performances for Southampton attracted interest from rival clubs, with a number of Premier League teams approaching the Saints over a deal.

Manchester United first tabled a bid for the Senegal international in 2015, but a move failed to materialise as the Red Devils sought pace and creativity in wide areas. The following summer, Liverpool secured a £34m deal for Mane, who became a transformative signing for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

“Yes, it was true (Manchester United were interested),” Mane said after signing for Liverpool.

“There was interest from a lot of clubs, not just Manchester United, but as soon as I knew Liverpool were interested I just felt it was the right club with the right coach. It was right for me to come here.”

Mane later opened up on the decision, telling the Telegraph that talks with Klopp persuaded him a move to Merseyside was the right one.

“I was really close to going to Manchester United. I had the contract there. I had it all agreed. It was all ready, but instead I thought, no, I want to go to Liverpool.

“I was convinced to go with Klopp’s project. I still remember the first time I got the call from Klopp. I was watching TV. It was an action movie – because I love movies – and he said, ‘Sadio, listen, I want to explain to you what happened at Dortmund’. That was when he thought of signing me for Dortmund and for some reason it didn’t work out.

“He tried to explain and I said, ‘it’s okay, it happened’. I forgave him. Then he said, ‘now I want you at Liverpool’. And I said, ‘Okay, Dortmund is behind us, let’s focus on the future.'”

Mane starred during a successful period for Liverpool under Klopp, with the forward scoring 120 goals across six seasons. He won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup at Anfield, while individual accolades arrived with the Premier League’s Golden Boot (2018/19) and African Footballer of the Year titles in 2019 and 2022.

Antoine Griezmann

Jose Mourinho’s search for a centre-forward took him to Antoine Griezmann in 2017, as he looked to reinforce his squad ahead of his second season.

United had won a Europa League and League Cup double during Mourinho’s debut campaign, but a sixth-place finish in the Premier League proved there was significant room to improve.

As Wayne Rooney headed for the exit door and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sat on the sidelines with a serious knee injury, Mourinho made his move for Griezmann.

The France international had finished as the leading scorer at Euro 2016, before scoring 26 goals in all competitions for Atletico Madrid during the 2016/17 campaign.

Griezmann was understood to be open to the move and even discussed the transfer on French television, deeming a switch to Old Trafford 6/10 in likelihood.

However, Atletico were handed a transfer ban and Griezmann remained in the Spanish capital, with United turning their attention to Romelu Lukaku.

Erling Haaland

Perhaps this is the one that stings more than most.

United have missed out on many signings across the past decade, but few will rankle quite like Erling Haaland. The Norwegian burst onto the radar of every major club in Europe during the 2019/20 campaign, as a prolific season for Red Bull Salzburg cast his name into the limelight.

United made their move during the January window, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked to reunite with his compatriot in the Premier League. Solskjaer had played a role in Haaland’s development at Molde and all roads appeared to lead to Old Trafford.

However, United pulled out of a deal due to the demands of agent Mino Raiola and Haaland’s desire for a release clause in his contract, with Borussia Dortmund swooping in to seal a deal.

Haaland scored 86 goals in just 89 appearances for Dortmund, before moving to the Premier League during the summer. He has made a spectacular and record-breaking impact in England, achieved in the colours of United’s cross-town rivals, Manchester City.

He became the first Manchester City player since 1970 to score a Manchester Derby hat-trick last month, as United were thrashed 6-3 at the Etihad. Ouch.

Read – Appreciating the top 10 players from the Ballon d’Or vote

Read Also – Noughties Nines: The greatest assassin, Ruud van Nistelrooy

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