This article forms part of our The Ones That Got Away feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern take a look back at players linked with moves in the past, and see how they would have made an impact had they signed for the interested side.
Since signing for Liverpool from Southampton in 2016, Sadio Mane has become one of the best players in the Premier League.
He is part of a frightening front three for the Reds alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, and was a key player as the Merseyside club won the UEFA Champions League last season.
However, it could have all been very different as he had the opportunity to join Liverpool’s arch-rivals Manchester United before a move to Anfield occurred.
Ahead of their European final against Tottenham, Mane told the Mirror that he was on the verge of going to Old Trafford before opting against it in favour of a move to the Reds.
“I was really, really close because I even met up with them,” Mane said.
“So I was coming, I was there and I spoke with the boss who was there before (Louis van Gaal). They made an offer, but in the same week, [Jurgen] Klopp called me.
“He said: ‘I think it’s the right club. The right coach for you, and I think it’s better that you go to Liverpool’.
“For me I think it was the right time as well. I said, ‘I am going to Liverpool.’”
Having missed out on Mane, United ended up signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and it is fair to say that the Senegal international has made a much bigger impact at Anfield that the Armenian did at Old Trafford.
Indeed, Mane has scored 69 goals and provided 27 assists in 139 appearances for Liverpool (Transfermarkt), significantly better numbers than Mkhitaryan who managed just 13 goals and 11 assists for United before being sold to Arsenal (Transfermarkt). Given the problems the Red Devils have endured up front this season prior to the return of Anthony Martial, missing out on Mane looks all the more frustrating.
It could also be argued that his decision to move to Anfield after speaking to Klopp was an early indicator in the change of stature between the clubs. Since the German arrived, big players have joined the Reds on their journey and their recruitment has been praised amid their success, while United’s recruitment has been slated by pundits such as Gary Neville. Having been in contact with both, the project Klopp was putting together was clearly more tempting for the Senegal star, who has since gone on to win the Champions League while the Red Devils have struggled in comparison.
We will never know if Mane would have hit the levels that he has done on Merseyside had he moved to Manchester. But fans of the Red Devils must look on with envy as he continues to impress for their great rivals, wondering how different things could have been had he decided to join them.
Manchester United fans, what are your thoughts on the club’s failed attempt to sign Sadio Mane? Let us know in the comments below…
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