Jack Grealish has revealed that he was ‘really close’ to joining Manchester United in 2020, as he prepares for his first return to Aston Villa as a Manchester City player.
Grealish left his boyhood side to sign for City in a British transfer-record deal last summer, the Premier League champions making the 26-year-old the first £100m player in English football history.
The England international will make his first return to Villa Park since leaving the club this evening, as Pep Guardiola’s side travel to face Villa in the Premier League.
Grealish is a fitness doubt ahead of the clash, but is hopeful he receives a warm welcome with the midfielder insisting he will always be a fan of the side where he rose through the ranks.
“I knew some people would be unhappy when I left, and I can see why some were like that, but I gave my all for the club every single year I was there. If I score, I’m not going to be celebrating,” Grealish said in an interview with the Telegraph.
“At the end of the day I’m Jack Grealish from Solihull who loves the Villa. That will never change – I’ve had a season ticket since I was four and been a fan my whole life.
“I was so close to coming to the West Ham game [in October], as we’d played on Saturday against [Crystal] Palace. I was invited to sit with Christian [Purslow, Villa’s chief executive] but I wasn’t actually sure of the reception I was going to get so I didn’t go.
“Fingers crossed it will be a good one on Wednesday. I’ll clap all four sides of the ground no matter what. If I get booed it will be a bit awkward!”
Grealish also revealed that he came close to leaving Villa for a different destination in 2020, admitting a move to Manchester United as ‘really close’ the previous summer.
The midfielder instead signed a new contract at Aston Villa, one which included the record-breaking release clause activated by City during the summer transfer window.
“I was really close to going [to Manchester United], but nothing happened in the end,” Grealish revealed.
“We played United in a pre-season game on Saturday and I wasn’t supposed to play in a cup game at Burton. But after the United game I said to Purslow and my agent [David Manasseh]: ‘If I’m not leaving, I’ll sign my new contract’.
“I went in with my dog on Tuesday morning, signed the deal, and played later that day. We all agreed on the clause and if any team hit that, it’s a win-win because it means I’ve had an unbelievable season and Villa got 100 million pounds.”