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Man United turned down ‘world-class’ forward for free, now he has £80m release clause

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As Sir Jim Ratcliffe set out his plans for a long overdue overhaul of Manchester United this week, it’s telling that the Ineos chief was keen to highlight the recruitment department as an area where improvements are a necessity.

Manchester United, he said, will move away from their obsession with big-name, shirt-shifting signings and towards a model favoured by Sir Alex Ferguson, when the Red Devils used to make superstars rather than buy them.

“I’d rather find the next (Kylian) Mbappe than spend a fortune trying to buy success,” Ratcliffe told The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club podcast. “It’s not that clever, is it, buying Mbappe, in a way?

“Anyone could figure that one out. Much more challenging is to find the next Mbappe or Jude Bellingham, or the next Roy Keane.”

One suspects that, if Ratcliffe was at the helm when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had proposed the likes of Erling Haaland, Declan Rice and the aforementioned Bellingham, some of the finest young talents of their generation would not have slipped through United’s grasp.


Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images

Manchester United snubbed Marcus Thuram chance

Marcus Thuram is another player United could and probably should have moved for, especially when you consider that the France international was available for nothing when his Borussia Monchengladbach contract expired in July of last year.

“Manchester United thought they needed a different kind of player,” Fabrizio Romano said, explaining why a move to England’s north west never materialised for a man who would join Inter Milan on a free transfer instead.


“(United wanted) a more traditional number nine, and that’s why they decided to go for Rasmus Hojlund.”

Of course, no one is suggesting that United should not have gone all in on Hojlund. So impressive since Christmas, the deadly Dane could be the club’s number nine for the best part of a decade, if not longer. Thuram still feels like a missed opportunity, however, especially when you consider that United’s back-up striker – Anthony Martial – has barely kicked a ball in recent months as he limps towards a long overdue exit.

Thuram might not be particularly prolific. But the 26-year-old is one of the finest forwards in Europe when it comes to striking up partnerships in the final third, and getting the best out of those alongside him. Thuram, tricky, skilful and capable of thriving both as a wideman and in a more central role, has 12 goals and 11 assists for runaway Serie A leaders Inter Milan, while coaxing some career-best performances out of his strike partner Lautaro Martinez.

It’s not hard to imagine Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho and co producing greater numbers with Thuram – the great facilitator – leading the line.

Another missed opportunity for the Red Devils

According to Tuttomercatoweb, it is not out of the realms of possibility that Inter could sacrifice Thuram – like they did with Andre Onana – to appease the vengeful gods of Financial Fair Play. Thuram reportedly still has Premier League admirers, and an £80 million release clause in his contract.

And wouldn’t it be so typical of Manchester United if they came calling for an £80 million forward they could have signed for free 12 months earlier? Well, typical of the Glazer-era Manchester United. The hope is that, under Ineos, the recruitment failings which have dogged the post Sir-Alex Ferguson years will quickly become a thing of the past.

“Everyone has already seen Marcus Thuram. He has world-class potential and I hope he fulfils it,” Inter (and former Gladbach) team-mate Yann Sommer tells Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He has an exceptional physique combined with technique and, above all, intelligence.

“He’s good in one-on-one situations, he can also play with Lautaro or hold the ball in the box. He is dangerous for opponents.”

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