Alex McLeish has revealed how Manchester United first ‘courted’ Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish eight years ago.
Grealish has been strongly linked with a summer switch to Old Trafford following an impressive season at Villa Park, the midfielder scoring seven goals and providing a further six assists despite the club’s struggles near the bottom of the Premier League.
Former Aston Villa boss McLeish has now revealed how Manchester United first expressed an interest in the playmaker back in 2012, the Red Devils making an approach to lure a teenage Grealish from his boyhood club.
“At that moment we felt people were getting in contact with him to leave Villa. That was one of the main reasons to get him involved with us (in the first team),” McLeish told the Claret and Blue podcast.
“He would have been on the bench anyway because of the casualties we had. He was the best youngster coming through.
“When we played Man United we heard he was in a restaurant being courted by one of the agents to try and get him to Man United.
“We were a bit alarmed about that so we fought well to keep him. We knew he loved Villa, his old man as well. We had them in speaking to them. They’re lovely people.
“They asked for something and the club went it’s too much but, finally, you come to an agreement and everybody’s happy. Jack stayed at Aston Villa, which is great to see one of the great players of Villa nowadays staying with his boyhood club.”
McLeish also discussed his first impressions of a young Grealish coming through the academy ranks at Villa, admitting it was obvious from an early age that the ‘fearless’ midfielder would go on to make an impression in the first-team.
“I’d see Jack with his famous socks down his legs!” he added. “He had that swagger. Watching him as a kid on the field ghosting past people with the ball at his feet. You could see all day long he was going to be a star, no doubt about it, which is why we thought we’d have to pretty well keep him at Villa.
“When Jack came in I saw that, while he wasn’t a big shouter, he was a boy who was willing to take the ball in any part of the pitch. The guy I likened him to at the time was Barry Ferguson. He could have played in any stadium in the world and Barry was fearless in taking the ball, saying: ‘Just gimme the ball, just gimme the ball!’.”