Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he is delighted for Borussia Dortmund frontman Erling Braut Haaland after his phenomenal start to life in Germany. Haaland scored twice as Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 on Tuesday night.
The Norwegian now has 11 goals in just seven games for the Bundesliga title hopefuls and 10 goals in just seven Champions League appearances, having earlier lit up the competition for Red Bull Salzburg this term.
He is the fastest player ever to reach double figures in Europe’s premier tournament, doing so four games quicker than any other player, while no-one has ever scored 10 or more as a teenager in one single season.
Haaland’s overall record for Salzburg and Dortmund this season reads a stunning 39 goals in 29 appearances, added to eight assists, all at the age of 19.
United were keen to sign the Norway international in the January transfer window but could not secure a deal for the striker, who is represented by Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola.
Express Sport understands demands from Raiola and the player’s father prevented an agreement despite Solskjaer having made Haaland his top target in the winter window.
The issue is made even more pertinent by the current absence of their 19-goal top scorer Marcus Rashford, whose back problem could even keep him out for the rest of the season.
United signed Odion Ighalo on loan from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day and while there is excitement for the Nigerian to be at Old Trafford as a boyhood fan of the club, such anticipation is dwarfed by the hype surrounding Haaland, who is quickly blossoming into one of Europe’s finest hitmen.
Asked on Wednesday before a Europa League round of 32 first leg showdown with Club Brugge whether he rues United’s failure to sign Haaland or not, Solskjaer said of his countryman: “I normally never comment but since I have had Erling I’m delighted for him.
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“He’s a top boy I want the best for and he’s started fantastically for Dortmund.
“For Norway it’s brilliant we have a striker who can score again.”
The Leeds-born attacker, son of ex-Leeds and Manchester City player Alf-Inge, cost Dortmund just £17.1m (€20m) in January as the result of a release clause in his contract with Austrian champions Salzburg.
His value has already increased as much as fivefold, particularly after the eye-catching second goal of his brace against PSG, with everyone across Europe now well aware of his talents.
Haaland’s goalscoring form at Dortmund means he has averaged a goal every 41 minutes having only featured for 450 minutes in his time at the Westfalenstadion.
He was recently named January’s Bundesliga player of the month in spite of the fact he did not even play an hour of football across the entire month.
And according to The Athletic, the European Golden Shoe contender reportedly told United that he wanted to join them after meeting with Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward back in December.
The United duo left the pre-Christmas meeting confident they could secure a deal for Haaland, but he eventually changed his mind and chose to move to Dortmund.
The club’s fractious relationship with Raiola, who has recently had a public war of words with Solskjaer over Pogba’s future in Manchester, may have impacted the deal.
And that was hinted at in the immediate aftermath of Haaland’s switch to Germany, when Solskjaer suggested it was United who pulled the plug on signing his top target because of finances and demands made by the other party involved.
“It is important that we use common sense,” Solskjaer said.
“There are other things too when you sign players, that you have to keep in control. You can’t give agents the control by giving buyout clauses and stuff.
“That has been touted around, that is for me, we have to be in control.”
Back in September, however, Haaland had teased interest in a move to United when he was full of praise for Solskjaer having worked under his compatriot at Molde.
“He has had a huge impact on my life, both as a person and as a trainer,” the player said of Solskjaer to TV2.
“He won the Champions League and was an incredibly good player. He has taught me a lot.
“I have dreamed of playing for the best clubs in the world my whole life, and I especially like English football.”
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