Manchester United failed to make grade for Erling Haaland in ratings-based list of possible moves

Erling Braut Haaland of Borussia Dortmund with his father Alf-Inge Rasdal Haaland during a training session at the seventh day of the training camp on January 10, 2020 in Malaga, Spain. - GETTY IMAGES
Erling Braut Haaland of Borussia Dortmund with his father Alf-Inge Rasdal Haaland during a training session at the seventh day of the training camp on January 10, 2020 in Malaga, Spain. - GETTY IMAGES

Erling Haaland and his father devised an elaborate points system last season to help the Norway striker determine his next move – with Manchester United not even making the final seven club shortlist.

Haaland has been a revelation since joining Manchester City in a £51 million deal in June and will face rivals United in Sunday's derby at the Etihad for the first time since his much publicised summer transfer.

But a new documentary – Haaland: The Big Decision – has lifted the lid on the intricate process that led to one of Europe’s most coveted players picking City by a whisker, and it will not make happy viewing for United fans.

Haaland’s father, Alfie, revealed that he and his son devised a points system covering a series of criteria, including whether a potential suitor needed to buy a No9, playing style, manager, history and stadium capacity, to help inform the decision-making process.

By the end of February, seven clubs were in the running to sign Haaland from Borussia Dortmund but, interestingly, United – who had tried and failed to sign the player two years earlier – were not among them.

“On our list, I think City is the best team,” Alfie said in the documentary – which was released on the Scandinavian streaming service Viaplay this month – a few months before deciding to move to the Premier League champions.

“[Bayern] Munich is number two. We have Real Madrid as number three, Paris St-Germain as number four. We also have some English teams other than City who are quite good – Liverpool and Chelsea. Also, there is Barcelona. They are sort of in the same row.”

With the rankings updated regularly during the course of last season, the documentary revealed that City finished only marginally ahead of the second ranked team, which is believed to have been Real.

Alfie, a former City midfielder, revealed that City’s need for a new striker counted strongly in their favour while the uncertainty over the futures of Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappé worked against Bayern and PSG respectively. Lewandowski ended up joining Barcelona in June while Mbappé snubbed Real to sign a new deal with PSG.

“I think it was one point separating the top two with the last calculations,” Alfie Haaland explained. “One of the criteria is about whether the club needs a No 9. City is 10 [out of 10] in that respect. Bayern Munich gets one point for that – they don’t need a No 9. They have their best player as a No 9 but if he [Lewandowski] goes then they have no one else.

“It would have been quite controversial to go to Munich but when we go through, it’s one of the best teams. Real Madrid are a five or six [out of 10]. They have [Karim] Benzema, and will they get Mbappé?”

News of Haaland’s lack of interest in joining United last summer may bring an extra edge to Sunday’s derby. Telegraph Sport has reported previously how United were not considered as a viable option because the Haalands were prioritising a “sporting project” and did not feel the club adequately matched up to its competitors.

United had come close to signing Haaland from Red Bull Salzburg in January 2020, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was manager, only for the striker to opt instead to join Dortmund. Solskjaer, who coached a teenage Haaland at Molde and was a former Norway team-mate of Alfie, had been confident a deal would be done and there have been numerous reasons put forward since over why it did not. Dortmund agreed during negotiations to include a £51m release clause in Haaland’s contract and that was one element United would not accept.

Haaland decided to choose City in the second week of April with the club announcing the following month that they had reached an agreement in principle with Dortmund. Haaland described City as “the best sporting project in the world right now … it’s where I think I’ll do my best”.

Karim Benzema - Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Karim Benzema - Denis Doyle/Getty Images

He also revealed that he had been inundated with pleas from members of City’s squad to move to the Etihad when Guardiola’s side met Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals the previous year. “After the game, I think 15 people said I should come,” Haaland said. “[John] Stones and Rúben Dias, [Ilkay] Gundogan, [Phil] Foden, [Kevin] De Bruyne.”

He admitted to having sleepless nights fretting over the decision. “Sometimes I struggle to sleep because I am thinking about it,” he said.

Haaland also revealed that Guardiola’s presence at City was a “big plus”. “I have never transferred to a club because of the manager but it is a big plus with Guardiola at City. He is the best manager in the world," he said.

Haaland has enjoyed a stunning start to his City career with 14 goals in his first nine games and will hope to add to that tally against United.

With a release clause in his City contract that can be activated at a certain point, Real Madrid are already reported to be ready to move for Haaland down the line and his father admitted his 22-year-old son wants to play in different countries before he retires.

'Erling can stay in every league for three or four years maximum'

“I think Erling wants to test out his capabilities in every league,” Alfie said in the documentary. “Then he can stay in every league for three to four years maximum.”

Laughing, he added: “He could have two-and-a-half years in Germany, two-and-a-half in England and then in Spain, Italy, France, right? We do not know if it will be like that but I think he would like to test his abilities in the big leagues.”

Haaland has become City’s top earner on £400,000 a week alongside De Bruyne but insisted that, while money was not his focus or drive, it was still important.

When I was a young boy, like everyone, I dreamt about becoming the best footballer in the world and making a living off it,” Haaland said. “Now I do. I think money is important for everyone in this world.

“To make the most money, that is not the main focus, but you would like to make as much as possible. If you can get 5,000 Norwegian krone to do a job or 10,000 to do the same job, you take the 10,000. Everyone would do that. I have dreamt about playing football and to live on that for the rest of my life.”

Foden close to new six-year City deal

Manchester City are on the verge of announcing that Phil Foden has agreed a new long-term contract.

The England forward has agreed a deal that will more than double his money to up to £250,000 a week including bonuses and could tie him to the club until 2028.

One of the most exciting young talents in Europe, Foden has become the poster boy for City’s academy under their Abu Dhabi owners and an integral figure in Pep Guardiola’s side.

And the Stockport born star, 22, is now set to become the latest City player to commit his future to the Premier League champions over the past year or so as the club cement the nucleus of their squad.

Foden scores against Wolves - Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Foden scores against Wolves - Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Midfielder Rodri and winger Riyad Mahrez signed new deals in July to 2027 and 2025 respectively and full back Joao Cancelo extended his contract until 2027 in February, the same month as England Under-21 midfielder James McAtee committed to a new deal until 2026.

Defenders Dias and Stones, goalkeeper Ederson and forward Cole Palmer all signed new long-term contracts between June and September last year.

Discussing City’s work on renewals during the recent documentary series Together: Champions Again, the club’s chief operating officer Omar Berrada said: “In the end it’s about keeping the talent and maintaining the balance.”

Telegraph Sport reported last October how Foden was close to signing a new six-year contract but talks ended up being delayed amid changes to the player’s representation.

Foden enjoyed another impressive season last term, scoring 14 goals in 45 appearances en route to winning his fourth Premier League title in five seasons.

He is expected to play a key role in England’s hopes of winning the World Cup this winter for the first time for 56 years.

The majority of City’s squad are tied to long-term deals but a decision will have to be made over the future of captain Ilkay Gundogan over the coming months with the Germany midfielder out of contract next summer.

City are also planning talks with Bernardo to determine his long-term plans ahead of an anticipated reshaping of the midfield next summer and need to know the player’s intentions.

The Portugal midfielder, who is contracted until June 2025, has vowed to continue to give everything for City while he is at the club but has admitted there are personal and cultural reasons why he would be interested in a move to Spain to be closer to home.

Barcelona are long-standing admirers and interested in bringing Bernardo to the Nou Camp next summer.