Man Utd optimistic of Erling Haaland transfer but striker encouraged to sign for RB Leipzig

Exclusive: Salzburg want the striker, who is United’s top target and has been guided to join Leipzig, to remain until the summer – but the Premier League side are gaining in confidence

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Tuesday 17 December 2019 13:01
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Manchester United are optimistic of clinching a deal for Erling Haaland, but Red Bull Salzburg want to at least keep the striker until the summer and the teenager has been strongly advised to continue his development in Germany.

The 19-year-old, who has 35 direct goal involvements in 22 appearances across all competitions since signing for the Austrian champions in January, has been plotting his future this month.

Meetings between the player and representatives including his father Alf-Inge Haaland have taken place with United, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who handed the teenager his debut at Molde, received encouragement after his pitch to the in-demand young forward with United chief Ed Woodward last Friday, there is an overwhelming desire for Haaland to take another step first before moving to the Premier League.

The Norwegian is a primary target for both Dortmund and Leipzig, but it is the latter that he has been advised to join. Germany’s league leaders have stability and a high probability of success with Julian Nagelsmann at the helm and there would not be a great deal of adaptation for Haaland, nor excessive attention, expectation and pressure.

The close relationship between Salzburg and Leipzig through Red Bull is obviously beneficial, with the latter’s sporting director, Markus Krosche, revealing an offer to the attacker has already been made.

Alf-Inge, the former Manchester City and Leeds midfielder, knows his son can be an exceptional player, but has underscored that he is still a “raw talent” and England’s top-flight is “a very tough league.”

Haaland is ahead of where his father and Salzburg expected him to be in his development and there is a consciousness not to rush his advancement.

Salzburg will sell Takumi Minamino to Liverpool for £7.25 million in January and their sporting director Christoph Freund explained the differences in the two situations.

“Haaland is a different case,” he told The Independent. “He’s still very young, this is only his first year with Salzburg. He’s done exceptional in the last months and I hope he spends many more months with us, at least until the summer.

“I think it’s very important for him to play one full season as an important player in a professional team. His situation is different to Takumi’s, who has been here five years in what has been a very special story. Takumi is ready to make the next step in January.”

Like Minamino, Haaland is reported to have a release clause well below his market value and this is one of the ways Salzburg ensure they can keep attracting young players to the club: by proving they do not make it difficult for them to move to the next level.

“It’s important to allow players to make the step after Salzburg,” said Freund. “Our only chance is to get players at a young age, between 17-20 and we help them by letting them play professional football already, which is very important for development.

“This helps them be ready for the rest of their careers. If we speak with young players, their agents and their parents, we can show them a lot of players come here, not with big names, but now they’re playing in big leagues and this is very important for us as a club.”

Whether Haaland decides to line up under Solskjaer, who has had a sizeable influence on the player’s career, or delays a switch to England via another league remains to be seen, but the United manager has revealed the choice has already been made.

“He knows what he wants to do and knows what he is going to do,” Solskjaer said on Sunday.

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