Manchester United transfers: John Murtough has Erling Haaland obstacle after FA Cup exit | Football | Sport

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Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle


Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle (Image: GETTY)

Manchester United‘s campaign suffered a hammer blow on Sunday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s chances of winning an elusive first trophy in charge were singled down to the Europa League – and it could yet have wider repercussions for their recruitment team including new director of football John Murtough. A 3-1 loss at Leicester dumped United out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage at the weekend.

Having not won a trophy since Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils beat Ajax in the 2017 Europa League final, United are in increasing need of silverware and Solskjaer is desperate to rubber-stamp the club’s progress under him.

United’s FA Cup disappointment comes after four successive semi-final exits across last term and this season, having twice lost to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals as well as missing out to Chelsea in the FA Cup last year and Sevilla in the Europa League.

Losing to Leicester once again leaves the Europa League as United’s only hope of lifting a trophy this term, and they must get past Granada and then Ajax or Roma to reach the final, where they could face Arsenal or Unai Emery’s Villarreal.

United are huge favourites in the Europa League but their history in the cups under Solskjaer means it is far from certain they will win it. They are still yet to prove they can clear the final few hurdles in domestic or continental knockout tournaments.

And despite their progress in the Premier League, where they stand to finish second this season after coming third last year, their struggles in the cups could harm their chances in the summer transfer window.

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle (Image: GETTY)

Namely with Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, given the level of competition United will face to land the 20-year-old frontman, who could cost north of £100million if he moves this summer.

The prolific Norway international is the most in-demand player across Europe and that’s not much of a surprise given he has plundered 49 goals and supplied 11 assists in just 49 appearances across all competitions for Dortmund.

This season he has more goals than games having managed 31 in 27 Bundesliga and Champions League matches.

In Germany and in Austria before that, where he played for Red Bull Salzburg, Haaland has proven he is a relentless and elite-level competitor. That was shown by how angry he was in the aftermath of Dortmund’s Bundesliga draw with Koln at the weekend.

A point leaves the Yellow Blacks four adrift of fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt in the final Champions League qualification spot with eight games to go.

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle (Image: EXPRESS SPORT)

The striker’s frustration came despite scoring a 90th minute equaliser to clinch a point for Dortmund. Other players may have been satisfied with that, especially given it completed yet another brace for the Norwegian.

Not Haaland. He may still be in the fledgling years of his career but it’s already clear he has the same ruthless mentality that has served previous greats of the game so well. On top of his remarkable physical abilities, it is quite the combination.

Comparisons can be drawn with Cristiano Ronaldo, another physical phenomenon who boasts a similar mentality. The Portuguese also let his fury get the better of him in walking off the pitch after Juventus lost to Benevento at the weekend.

And as Haaland canvasses his options for his future, he may look at United’s struggles in cups under his countryman Solskjaer and think his quest for success and silverware may be better served elsewhere.

Among his alternative options are two of United’s Premier League rivals, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola’s City have rediscovered their peak performance this season and can still win an unprecedented quadruple. Given the strength of their squad, they’ll likely be equally as competitive next term, especially so if Haaland were to replace Sergio Aguero as their new go-to No 9.

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City’s trophy-winning pedigree over the past decade speaks for itself. They have won four league titles (soon to be five), two FA Cups and five League Cups (which could soon be six) since 2010.

A long-awaited European Cup success could also be on the way this season, though they face a showdown with holders Bayern Munich or last year’s runners up Paris Saint-Germain in the semis if they beat Haaland’s Dortmund in the quarters.

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle (Image: GETTY)

Man Utd: Solskjaer reacts to Haaland breaking record

City are highly likely to win at least two trophies this season and four is certainly not out of the question, though they have failed to get past the last eight in the Champions League in the past four seasons under Guardiola.

Champions League and FA Cup success is not out of the question for Chelsea either with Thomas Tuchel yet to lose as manager since replacing Frank Lampard late in January.

The Londoners have improved significantly under the German and will fancy their chances in the FA Cup if they beat City in the semis, while they will be the favourites to progress against Porto in the quarters of Europe and also against either Liverpool or Real Madrid in the final four.

Even if Tuchel eventually goes the same way as his Chelsea predecessors, with managers at Stamford Bridge famously enjoying short tenures due to Roman Abramovich’s refusal to accept anything but success, it is hard to count the Blues out of winning major honours in the years to come.

Since the Russian oligarch’s ownership began in the summer of 2003, Chelsea have won five league titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the Champions League and two Europa Leagues.

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle

Manchester United transfer chief John Murtough has been dealt new Erling Haaland obstacle (Image: GETTY)

United, by contrast, have struggled to put together a sustained title challenge since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and trail City by 14 points as the current Premier League season comes to a close.

While Solskjaer can point to the fact United have clearly made forward progress in the league, Haaland wants major honours and there are still question marks over whether the Red Devils can deliver them under their former striker.

It is fair to argue United would stand a much greater chance of winning such silverware with a player of Haaland’s talent leading the line but will he see it the same way? Or will he see City or Chelsea, or one of the Spanish giants, as a better bet to satisfy his craving for trophies?

Convincing him United are the best destination will be harder if United also fail to win the Europa League this season, particularly given they are the favourites to do so and if Chelsea or City win trophies at their expense.

Haaland’s future is very much undecided but United need better proof that they can battle for the biggest prizes available with the likes of City and Chelsea in the coming years if they want to bring him to Old Trafford.





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