Manchester United have lost the race to sign 17-year-old prodigy Jude Bellingham from Birmingham City.
According to The Times, a deal was agreed yesterday between the Blues and German club Borussia Dortmund, who will sign the England under-17 international for £20.7 million.
United were desperately keen to sign Bellingham and pulled out all the stops to convince him to join them, including a day trip to Old Trafford when he was introduced to Sir Alex Ferguson, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Sir Bobby Charlton and given a guided tour of the ground and the Carrington training complex.
It is another dismal failure for United’s negotiators Ed Woodward and Matt Judge, who held all the aces in the situation yet somehow let the youngster slip through their grip.
Whilst Dortmund undoubtedly have a good record of bringing through youngsters, no club’s is better than United’s, whose history is built on developing young talent, from the Busby Babes, through Tommy Docherty’s exciting side of the 1970s, to Fergie’s Fledglings.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s current side is also the youngest in the Premier League.
The Red Devils could also offer less disruption to family life for the Bellinghams, whose other son Jobe plays in Birmingham’s youth academy.
United are also a much richer club than Dortmund and could have outbid the German side in the deal.
Reports say that the Bellingham family were more convinced that Jude could get first team opportunities at Dortmund but this again could have been challenged by United by citing the likes of Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood. They could also have offered to loan Bellingham back to Birmingham for another year.
Executive vice chairman Woodward said in July 2014 ‘We can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of. Watch this space.’
Since then, the Red Devils have been humiliated in the transfer market, having lost out in the race for the likes of Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Ivan Perisic, Alphonso Davies, Paulo Dybala, Matthijs de Ligt, Raphael Varane, Pedro, Virgil van Dijk and Erling Haaland (also to Dortmund). Woodward’s ineptitude plummeted new depths in January when an embarrassing last-minute scramble for a striker left United signing Odion Ighalo, their eleventh choice – that we know of.
Ighalo’s fantastic performances for the club have glossed over the fact that transfer attempts for Joshua King, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Edinson Cavani, Dries Martens, Danny Ings, Teemu Pukki and Salomon Rondon, among others, all failed before the Red Devils turned to him.
Indeed, reports have resurfaced this week that United had agreed to sign Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim in 2015. The medical was booked at Carrington but the player was allowed to slip through the net. The list goes on and on.
United also took several bites at the cherry to finally land Harry Maguire a year after he was targeted and Bruno Fernandes six months after he was made available – both for the same or more money than they could have been signed for in the first place.
None of this bodes well as the transfer season gets under way for the potential signing of Jadon Sancho or other reported targets such as Moussa Dembele and Jack Grealish.
18-year-old Mason Greenwood has been setting the world on fire for Manchester United this season. But how much do you know about other teenage stars that have played for the Red Devils over the years? Take our quiz below to find out.