Man Utd failed to sign Odegaard twice due to delay mistake and training clause

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    Manchester United need no reminding of the talents of Arsenal rival Martin Odegaard.

    That's because United tried to sign him not once but twice – and failed on both occasions. Had things been different, the midfield sensation might have been lining up for United at the Emirates on Sunday instead of for the opposition.

    United's pursuit of the Norwegian ace started when he was just 14, spanned two different managers and even involved one of them taking a flight to see him in his homeland in a bid to persuade him to join the English giants.

    READ MORE: Erik ten Hag taunts Arsenal that Man Utd can beat them without Casemiro

    Back in 2013 when David Moyes was still manager, United invited Odegaard to spend some time at the club's Carrington training ground. Despite his supreme gifts, United decided to wait 12 months to see how Odegaard had developed. But it proved to be a mistake.

    In the intervening time, Odegaard had become one of the most sought-after teenagers in European football. By the age of 15, Odegaard had become the youngest player to make his senior international debut with Norway and found himself the target of some of the biggest clubs on the planet.

    United had company, in the shape of Bayern Munich, managed by Pep Guardiola at the time, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Celtic. Barcelona were also interested and invited Odegaard, whose idol was Lionel Messi, to watch a home game against Cordoba in 2014.

    United took the view Odegaard was so good there was no need to offer him a trial – and dispatched then manager Louis van Gaal to Norway to meet him face-to-face.

    The Dutchman's mission was to persuade Odegaard that United was his best option, but was left stunned when the precocious youngster insisted one of his conditions was he wanted to train with the first team from day one.

    Odegaard wanted to learn from the best straight away, but Van Gaal refused and the deal was dead in the water.

    At the start of 2015 Odegaard flew to Spain to train with a Real Madrid first team including Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, after Bernabeu bosses agreed to his request.

    He completed a £3m move to the Spanish giants from Stromsgodset less than three weeks later when Real offered his dad, Hans Erik Odegaard, a job coaching the club's U11 team on a salary of £2.75m a year.

    Real had won their 10th European Cup the previous season and Odegaard had visions of becoming the next Galacticos. There was even an inquest in Bavaria into how Bayern had managed to let Odegaard slip trough their net.

    But he had to wait 679 days before making his first start for Real and went on to spend the next two seasons on-loan at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad.

    Almost 12 months ago he made his fourth loan move, this time to Arsenal, and never looked back. The deal became permanent last summer when Arsenal agreed a fee of around £30m with Real – and the rest is history.

    Odegaard, who is now 24, has been sensational this season, establishing himself as Arsenal's most influential player to help them charge to the top of the Premier League table.

    United have their own Norwegian midfielder too, in the shape of Christian Eriksen, and the battle between the two could be worth the admission fee alone.

    But those still working at United who once saw Odegaard come so close to signing a decade ago will know he has now proved himself to be one of the greatest stars to ever slip through their fingers.


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