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‘I’ve just seen the next Bryan Robson’… Mike Phelan spotted star Manchester United tried to bring to Old Trafford

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Manchester United have had a number of transfer regrets through the years, from either signing the wrong players, or missing out on the right ones.

There are missed opportunities which go down as major ‘What If?’ moments in recent Manchester United history.

A glaring one is the botched move for Toni Kroos in 2014, in which Louis van Gaal vetoed a deal most of the groundwork was laid for.

Another came six years later in 2020, when Manchester United tried hard to sign Jude Bellingham.

  • READ: Manchester United’s 13 biggest transfer misses of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era

Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid runs with the ball during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Mallorca at Estadio Santiago Ber...

Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Manchester United pushed for Bellingham

While often the problem has been poor scouting, in the case of Jude Bellingham, Manchester United had got everything right, moving early to try and sign the teenager from Birmingham City.

The problem was Borussia Dortmund had become involved, and persuaded the talented teenager to sign with them, a stepping stone to a future move to Real Madrid.

Bellingham did visit Carrington, meeting club legends, with Bryan Robson believing the deal was in the bag.

Other accounts have since relayed that Ed Woodward’s pitch was too financially focused, while Sir Alex Ferguson was said to be ‘incandescent’ at his discussion with the player being interrupted by John Murtough.

Mike Phelan pushed for Jude Bellingham move

Manchester United’s assistant at the time was Mike Phelan, who was working alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Sun reported in late 2019 how Phelan had personally scouted Bellingham and urged United to push to sign for the midfielder.

Now almost five years on, Phelan has given his account and confirmed he did check on Bellingham and liked what he saw.

Speaking to the Ben Heath podcast, Phelan explained: “I saw Jude Bellingham play four positions in one game at 16 in the Championship, and he was man of the match in all four in that one game.

“I just went along because I’d heard something, you come back and go ‘I’ve just seen the next Bryan Robson here’.

“I played with Bryan so I understood, probably thinking ‘could be better than Bryan Robson’.

Manchester United were unsuccessful in landing Bellingham, who had a clearly plotted out path to the top.

He likened his determination to a player he worked with twice, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Not just ability, courage and determination, they know where they want to go, what comes with it, the frustrations of not progressing fast enough, challenging fast enough.

“Cristiano was all that, but ultimately he’s still playing now because he’s done a lot of work at intensities that will keep him going now, quality work, not just on the field, off the field, a real mentality to just push push push.”

Bellingham last night scored the first goal in England’s Euro 2024 opener, a powerful header against Serbia. He is now the country’s main man in midfield, just like Bryan Robson once was.

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