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Paolo Di Canio’s phone call to Sir Alex Ferguson after rejecting Man Utd

Few players have turned down a transfer to Man Utd and not looked back with regret.

Yet few players are quite like Paolo Di Canio.

The enigmatic former West Ham captain was approached by legendary United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in 2001, but rejected the chance to move to Old Trafford – even at the age of 33.

Di Canio had been at the Hammers less than two years at the time, having moved there with a bad boy reputation after pushing over a referee during his time at Sheffield Wednesday.

And the Italian maestro admitted that whilst he was flattered by the interest from United, his loyalty lied at Upton Park.

"I thought it was a joke, I thought it was my friend from Italy," Di Canio told the Sky Sports News' Transfer Talk podcast.

"My stomach went a bit because it makes you think you have underestimated yourself, that you are bigger than what you thought. Man United call you, try to persuade you to move because they want you. For a couple of minutes you feel big and strong.

"It was strange for me to say no to Sir Alex. I said "thanks, 1000 times thanks, but I can't. West Ham are the family that warmed to me in the worst moment in my life, I'm the skipper, I can't.

"He told me, 'Paolo, respect for this, I love people that think in this way. You are the man that I thought you were.'"

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Barcelona ‘set Ivan Rakitic price tag ‘as Man Utd-linked star set for transfer

Barcelona are ready to let Ivan Rakitic leave the Nou Camp for £17.6m according to reports in Spain.

The Croatian has been a long-term target for Manchester United and he is now available for a very reasonable fee.

Rakitic will be out of contract next year and he is unlikely to be offered a new one with the Catalans keen on cashing in, reports Marca.

The 32-year-old will not be short of offers following an impressive career that saw him win the Champions League in 2015.

And he said earlier this year that his lack of game time was a problem.

“I don’t know what’s next. It’s hard and embarrassing," Admitted the Croatian.

“I want to play for Barcelona and not just be part of the team. I will do my best to try to change this situation in the next games.”

He was also crucial in Croatia's run to the World Cup Final in 2018 proving that he is still capable of producing and United are thought to have contacted him before signing Bruno Fernandes.

With Paul Pogba's departure looking increasingly likely Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may see him as the ideal replacement.

PSG were also linked with Rakitic and he could yet be used in a deal as they bid to bring Neymar back to Spain.


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Man Utd ‘set price limit’ for Saul Niguez transfer from Atletico Madrid

Manchester United are reportedly refusing to meet Atletico Madrid's demands as they bid to land highly-rated midfielder Saul Niguez from the La Liga club this summer.

Niguez is on United's radar as a potential replacement for Paul Pogba, with the Frenchman widely expected to leave Old Trafford this summer.

However, any club hoping to sign Niguez must meet an astronomical release clause of £132million, with the 25-year-old just three years into a nine-year contract at Atletico.

And United are only willing to go to £70m for the Spain international, according to reports from his homeland.

AS says United see Niguez as the ideal replacement for Pogba given he is approaching his peak years, and believe he would be a perfect fit for the Premier League.

But the Spanish publication claims the Red Devils are only willing to pay around half of the player's release clause given the current climate, with clubs still unsure of the full financial impact of the coronavirus crisis that has brought football to a halt.

AS also reports that Niguez is in talks with Atletico over improving his contract – so United and a host of other suitors will be keeping a close eye on any developments.

United legend Rio Ferdinand reckons Niguez would be an ideal signing for his former club if Pogba does leave this summer.

Speaking on Instagram Live, Ferdinand said: "I don't want Pogba to go but if he does go I'd take Saul Niguez all day long. Not like-for-like but still a top player.


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Matic makes bold prediction about McTominay’s Man Utd career

Nemanja Matic is predicting big things for Scott McTominay across the Manchester United midfielder's career, and thinks he can reach legendary status at Old Trafford.

McTominay has suffered from injury issues during the 2019/20 season, but he returned to the team shortly before the end of February and began to retake a crucial role in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.

The Scottish international scored in the 5-0 win over Club Brugge in the Europa League and then memorably grabbed the second goal in the 2-0 Manchester derby victory shortly before the suspension of football, and Matic is delighted with the 23-year-old's progress.

"We are always talking, especially when he started to play in the first team, but now he's a proper senior player he plays like he’s had 10 years in the first team," Matic told MUTV.

"With him, we don't have any problems.

"I think he will be a very important player for Manchester United in the next 10 years or more. He is the kind of player and person that you always want to have in the changing room.

"[He's] very professional, with a lot of quality in the legs. His mentality is what Manchester United needs to have, so I think that with any coach, in any club he will fit very well.

"I'm happy for him and United that they have a player like that in the team. He just needs to continue how he's been working until now and I'm sure he will be one of the Manchester United legends one day."


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Inside Man Utd’s infamous tunnel fight with police after Champions League exit

There was a terrible atmosphere on the trip as soon as the team stepped off the plane in Istanbul.

And when the time came for Manchester United to reproduce their impressive domestic form in Europe, they were unable to flick the switch.

Needing at least to score, after the wasteful 3-3 draw in the first leg at Old Trafford, and with Galatasaray players keen to throw themselves to the ground, Eric Cantona grew frustrated.

To everyone’s bewilderment, referee Karl Rothlisberger blew right on 90 minutes with the score at 0-0 (it’s fair to say United probably did not have a goal in them anyway).

Cantona, incensed, went to remonstrate with the official.

Despite the game being over, Rothlisberger quickly pulled out a red card and pointed it in Cantona’s direction as the teams were shielded off the field and towards the dressing rooms.

In the tunnel, there was a huge altercation with Cantona and Bryan Robson in the middle of it.

In a scuffle with police, both players were hurt.

“At the end of one tunnel was the sanctuary of our dressing room, but before we could reach it, I saw a policeman punch Eric Cantona in the back of the head,” said United defender Steve Bruce.

Midfielder Roy Keane recalled: “In the dressing room Eric went crazy. He was determined to go back outside to sort out the rogue cop who’d been wielding his truncheon.

“Eric was a big, strong lad. He was serious. He insisted he was going to kill ‘that f****r’.

"It took the combined efforts of the manager, (assistant) Brian Kidd and a few of the players to restrain him.

“Normally I wouldn’t have backed off a fight but even I wasn’t up for this one. There were a lot of Turks out there!”

Cantona was vociferous in his demand for the truth. “I was punched on the back of the head and it’s a great scandal,” he said. Asked what he said to referee Karl Rothlisberger, he replied: “I just told him he was a bad referee.”

Retelling the tale in his book My Story, Cantona said: “What annoyed me most is that I was hit on the head with a truncheon by a policeman, the sort of fellow who sends you to prison for being out of work, or when you are hungry and you go and steal a bar of chocolate from the supermarket.

“Of course, I was upset at being knocked out of the European Cup, at the spoiling tactics of the opponents, at the fact that no stoppage time was added, and by being given the red card after the game had ended.

“But, above all, I had been hit from behind by that s*** of a Turkish policeman. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again some time!”

On being knocked out of Europe, he said: “Galatasaray is a little team but today so were Manchester United.”

Manager Alex Ferguson could barely believe it.

“Eric complained about no time being added on,” he said. “There was hardly a minute extra. Then a policeman punched Cantona. We have filmed evidence of that.”

It was the first time United had seen the volcanic side of Cantona’s temperament.

But chairman Martin Edwards recalled: “It wasn’t just him – there was Robson who was involved in the scuffle in the tunnel, so it wasn’t necessarily the same as his previous problems.

“We knew what we were getting, we knew he flared up at times. But his value to the team meant it was worth putting up with it.”

*Adapted by Mike Walters from King Eric – Portrait Of the Artist Who Changed English Football, published by Reach Sport and written by Wayne Barton, is on sale now from Amazon in ebook or hardback format


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Graeme Souness says criticism of Paul Pogba is down to Man Utd star’s attitude

Graeme Souness has opened up on his apparent distain for Paul Pogba by suggesting that their opposing attitudes leaves him feeling frustrated.

The World Cup winning midfielder has been criticised by the former Liverpool manager on several occasions since he moved back to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, leaving some viewers questioning his persistent disapproval.

Pogba tried to force a move away from Manchester United last summer amid apparent interest from Real Madrid, with some claiming he has looked disinterested at times during his second spell.

A reader asked Souness via the Sunday Times: ”Much has been made of your apparent disdain for Paul Pogba. Is this a misconception?

"Should you have been his team-mate, what words of advice do you feel that you would have offered him?"

To which he responded: "Pogba has absolutely everything to be a top player – great athleticism, super technique – but his attitude to the game is the polar opposite of mine.

"He goes out with one thought in his mind: 'I'm going to show everyone how clever I am today and be the star of the show.'

"My attitude, the way I was taught, was: 'Go out and work harder than the guy you're in against and see where that takes you.' He'd be an absolute doddle to play against."

Roy Keane has also been known to call out Pogba’s desire to achieve with United in the past, as he did while sat alongside Sourness on Sky Sports earlier this month.

He said when asked about the impact of Bruno Fernandes: He’s settled into the club so well, maybe that gives United a chance to move Pogba on a bit quicker.

“Possibly [I could see them playing together]. But it depends on Pogba’s attitude even with this injury, he’s been out for how long with this injury?”

The 27-year-old has been out of action since Boxing Day, but was nearing a return to the pitch before the coronavirus pandemic put the current Premier League season in doubt.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "Paul knows he has to work hard to get back to his best. He has been out now for so long now, it's a challenge to get back into shape."

Before adding: ”Well of course, I'd like to say that as soon as he gets fit, he'll be good enough to play for the team.

"I’m sure Paul's desperate to play for us again.”

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Man Utd transfer ‘appealing’ to Sancho because of Solskjaer’s attacking trio

Manchester United are a much more appealing destination compared to last year for Jadon Sancho.

And it is down to the attacking potential between Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.

The Borussia Dortmund ace has been the talk of the town this season and near enough every top club in Europe are taking a closer look.

It comes after another fabulous year in the Bundesliga, which the winger has taken by storm.

In 23 appearances in the Bundesliga, he had scored 14 times as well as assisting 15, already eclipsing both his totals from last season in 11 fewer games.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris St-Germain are interested in the 20-year-old’s services.

However, it is believed that Sancho would prefer a move back to England and the likes of United, Chelsea and Liverpool are keen.

But it is the Red Devils who are the most touted destination and the Evening Standard report that Old Trafford is much more attractive than last year.

In the summer of 2019, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer launched a bid for the England international.

But Sancho was not keen on leaving Dortmund just yet, especially for a club that seemed in disarray.

  • Paul Pogba and Mino Raiola at loggerheads over Man Utd transfer future

However, Solskjaer has seemed to steer the ship back into the right direction and prior to the coronavirus crisis decimating the footballing calendar United were on an 11-match unbeaten streak.

The Evening Standard also report that the trio Martial, Greenwood and Rashford represents a chance to forge a potentially devastating attack.

  • Man Utd could turn to Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi if Jadon Sancho transfer fails

The three of them have scored 47 goals between them this campaign, with youngster Greenwood scoring 12 of them.

And Sancho need not fear a starting spot at United where he would slot in at right-wing.

The position has been problematic over the years for the Red Devils but the Englishman would provide a long-term solution.

But they will have to shell out a fortune for him, with prices starting at around £120m.

With an influx of interest, it remains to be seen whether United will splash the cash when there are other areas that need strengthening too.

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Paul Pogba’s departure could cost Man Utd’s chances of signing top target

Antoine Griezmann will only consider joining Manchester United if Paul Pogba stays at the club.

That is the verdict from French football expert Julien Laurens, who believes the Barcelona forward is not too keen on leaving Spain for England anyway.

United are expected to reignite their interest in Griezmann this summer.

The France international was widely expected to move to Old Trafford two years ago but a transfer never materialised.

It ended up with the striker staying at Atletico Madrid before joining Barcelona last summer.

However, a poor season at the Nou Camp has urged Los Cules to consider offloading the World Cup winner, who cost them £107m.

And Laurens reckons Pogba holds the key to any potential move to Old Trafford.

"I'd be very amazed [if Griezmann joined United]," Laurens told ESPN FC.

"Okay, it hasn't really worked out for him at Barcelona so far this season.

"One: I think it would be crazy from Barca to then let him go a year after signing him from Atletico Madrid, with everything that went through that, the release clause and the bigger release clause and the one they paid, etc.

"And at his age, with the age that [Lionel] Messi is and [Luis] Suarez, surely Griezmann can be the future of Barcelona in that sort of centre-forward leadership role.

"Why would you let him go? And from what we were told before, he never wanted to go to England anyway.

"His wife Erika doesn't want to move out of Spain, he's very happy in Spain, Spain is his second country but probably more his country than France and I don't really think England is really appealing to him.

"The thing that could appeal for him to go to Manchester United is Paul Pogba.

"But I'm not sure how much guarantee he will have that Paul Pogba will still be there next season.

"However, if there is a guarantee that Pogba will still be there, then I think Griezmann will love to play with his best mate Pogba at club level as well as the national team.

"But apart from that, I can't see Griezmann going to Manchester United at all."

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Man Utd target Bellingham’s youth coach details what sets him apart from others

Jude Bellingham has been backed by his former coach to fulfil his potential and reach the very pinnacle of the professional game.

Sam Manoochehri, an ex-youth development coach at Birmingham City, worked directly with Bellingham for four years and has shared an insight into the highly-rated star.

Manoochehri has coached youngsters for almost 14 years and has seen many a player squander their talent, but he never had any doubts over Bellingham.

Even from the age of eight, he has revealed that Bellingham’s mental strength set him apart from others and his willingness to be the best was unrivalled by any of his peers.

“Anywhere Jude goes, he will be a success, based purely on his mentality. I have never seen a mentality more elite than his,” he said.

“When I worked with him, when something was tough, he loved it. I can remember games when he wanted to play himself centre half to test himself.

“Now if you say to most young midfielders or attackers, by the way you are playing centre-half today they probably wouldn’t be best pleased with it.

“But Jude would actively go and seek the challenge without having to be pushed from the coaching staff.

Despite coaching Bellingham in his former years, Manoochehri takes little credit for the player’s rise to stardom and instead praises the youngster for his unique mind-set.

“All we did was provide an environment in which he could go and stretch himself,” he said.

“I can remember one training session in particular where after about 20 minutes, I asked him are you using your other foot?

“He replied, yeah I am just going to play on my left foot today and that was without any prompts.

“That is his unique ability, he loves a challenge, loves developing and learning, being pushed out of his comfort zone.”

A boyhood Blues fan, Bellingham signed for the club as an eight-year-old but this campaign could be his last at St Andrew's amid mounting transfer speculation.

A host of Europe’s elite are chasing Bellingham’s signature and Manoochehri believes the 16-year-old can make his mark on any of the continent’s top teams.

“Man United, it might be a nice fit for Jude, with a rejuvenated team, talk of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish going over there,” he said.

“But Dortmund would also suit, the recent profile of players that have come through that system, the likes of Jadon Sancho. Jude would fit that mould too.

“And look at what’s going on at Chelsea now. A lot of good young players in that team.

Billy Gilmour the most recent one to impress, he is now shining on the big stage.

“However Jude has got to make sure that his next move, is to a club where he plays. If not, I don’t think there is any problem with him staying at Birmingham.

“He’s got to where he is at the minute coming through the whole Birmingham City program so there should be no rush to move on.”

There is much talk about a move away from Birmingham, but Manoochehri has pointed to the national side as a reason for the teenager to stay put at St Andrews.

He cited several current English internationals who benefited from plying their trade in the lower tier before making the switch to more illustrious surroundings.

“I’ve got no doubt in my mind that Jude will play in the Champions League and he will represent England at senior level,” he said.

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Dimitar Berbatov explains why Jadon Sancho will be a good fit for Man Utd

Jadon Sancho "wont think twice" should Manchester United come calling with his attributes a perfect fit at Old Trafford, according to Dimitar Berbatov.

The Borussia Dortmund star is tipped to leave the Bundesliga and return to England this summer.

United are one of the clubs who have expressed a strong interest given their want to add young, homegrown talent.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a host of athletic forwards at his disposal and Berbatov does envisages some selection problems as the Norwegian looks to keep everyone happy.

But the Bulgarian is in no doubt that Sancho would add plenty to a United side that has shown considerable improvement recently.

He told Betfair: "This week there's been a lot of talk about Jadon Sancho moving to Manchester United, in his case, because he's English and Man United are in for you, I don't think he will think twice about moving there.

"I have said it before, he has the quality, the pace, the goals and the assists to play for them, I'm sure he would like to continue in the national team as well and Gareth Southgate will watch him more if he is playing in the Premier League.

"For me, if they get him he is going to be a great addition but I'm curious to see how they would line up. United have: Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Daniel James, Mason Greenwood and possibly Sancho next season, even though you want that competition for young players it could be tricky to see them all playing at the same time.

"If he is going to move somewhere else, he needs to know that he is going to play regularly, there is no point going somewhere else and not playing as much as you want.


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