Belfast Telegraph

Solskjaer hopeful of reinforcements but plays down Haaland link

United have been linked with Red Bull Salzburg’s Norwegian striker, the son of former Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has played down speculation surrounding Erling Haaland (PA)
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has played down speculation surrounding Erling Haaland (PA)

By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remained coy amid intensifying talk about Manchester United’s interest in Erling Haaland.

The highly-rated 19-year-old is among the Red Devils’ transfer targets after making an outstanding start to his first season at Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg.

United are not alone in showing interest but boss Solskjaer already has a personal relationship with striker Haaland thanks to their time together at Molde.

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Erling Haaland impressed during two Champions League games against Liverpool (Kerstin Joensson/AP)

Speculation ramped up this week when the teenager was pictured signing a United shirt, with talk increasing further on Friday morning when reports emerged in Norway that he was on a flight to Manchester with his father Alf-Inge.

“I don’t think he’s en route here, to be fair – not through me, anyway,” Solskjaer said.

“You know I can’t comment on other teams’ players. I’ve said that many a time.

“That’s just one of those things that in this job you get so many speculations all the time.”

Pushed on whether he was saying Haaland was not coming to Manchester, the Norwegian said: “Well, he is not coming to Manchester because… well, I know the boy and I know his friends and all this. He’s on a Christmas holiday.

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Erling Haaland’s father Alf-Inge used to play for United’s rivals City (Phil Noble/PA)

“No (not in Manchester) but you can’t fly anywhere from Stavanger, can you, so you need to go via via…!”

Norwegian newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad late updated their initial story that Haaland was heading to Manchester, confirming the striker had instead headed to Copenhagen with his father.

Haaland Sr, the former Leeds and Manchester City midfielder, knows Solskjaer well and made light of the speculation on Friday, posting “have another guess” on Twitter alongside a photo of his son looking at a departures board.

Little wonder that Solskjaer insisted he would not be seeing Haaland on Friday, having previously brushed off reports that he had visited the player in Salzburg last week.

And while clearly uncomfortable talking about other clubs’ players, the United boss is hopeful they can bolster the squad in January.

“Yeah (I am hopeful),” Solskjaer said. “As a manager, you always hope that you can do something.

“But, then again, it’s not something that’s nailed on.

He is not coming to Manchester because... well, I know the boy and I know his friends and all this. He's on a Christmas holiday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Erling Haaland

“It has to be the right player, the right age, going to fit into this squad and for the right value.

“We’re always looking and it’s a transfer window that’s open, but it might not happen.

“We’re getting players back. We’re getting Paul (Pogba) back, we’re getting Timothy (Fosu-Mensah) back, Eric Bailly back, Diogo (Dalot) back so that’s four extra bodies for us for the coming months anyway.

“Diogo is playing tonight in the game for the youngsters (against AC Milan) so from then on he’s ready.

“Eric, Tim and Paul probably need a little more time.”

That quartet will be absent as United travel to Watford on Sunday, when Angel Gomes appears unlikely to feature yet again.

Contact negotiations with the 19-year-old have stalled and the midfielder has not been named in a first-team squad since starting at Astana last month.

Gomes and fellow youngster Tahith Chong are both out of contract at the end of the campaign but Solskjaer has not given up hope of keeping them at Old Trafford.

“Both of them are players we want to keep,” he said. “I think they are good talents.

“They’ve had a couple of niggles and injuries. They know that so I haven’t been able to play them as much as I’d like.

“Angel, for example, has been ill now for a few weeks, he’s had a bad ankle.

“But they are talents and they are Man United people.”

PA

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