It was in 1997 that the Håland family relationship with Manchester United began.
While playing for the Red Devils, captain Roy Keane injured his ACL while trying to halt Leeds United midfielder Alf-Inge Håland. Unimpressed with the challenge, the Norweigan claimed the Republic of Ireland international was feigning injury to avoid punishment.
Three years later, in what many believe to have been an act of revenge, Keane produced a knee-high ‘tackle’ on Håland during a Manchester derby that effectively ended the midfielder’s career.
In his autobiography, Keane claimed it was vengeance. The midfielder later denied this.
Two decades have passed since the initial incident but the feud the two former players lives on. However, Manchester United is very much back on the Håland family agent.
Alf-Inge’s son Erling is one of the most sought-after teenagers in world football and the Premier League giants could bring him to Old Trafford after scouts watched the 19-year-old score a hat-trick on his Champions League debut.
Born in Leeds, Håland junior has claimed his dream is to win the Premier League with his hometown club. And while Leeds and Manchester United may no longer be rivals on the pitch, their disdain for each other remains. So it would something remarkable to convince a Leeds United fan to play for the Red Devils.
But it does happen. Alan Smith famously said he’d never play for United… but went on to move to Old Trafford. So if Mr. Leeds United could do it Håland might not even give it a second thought.
The chance to spearhead United out of the slumber they currently find themselves in might be too good of an opportunity to pass up. While plenty of Europe’s elite will be keeping tabs on the Norway international, those at Old Trafford may feel they have an advantage.
Firstly, Ole Gunnar Solskjær was the manager of Molde when Håland was signed. The United boss gave the youngster his debut for the club.
Another positive is Håland’s former agent happens to be Solskjær’s. While Jim Solbakken no longer has any sway over the talented teen, that relationship could prove useful.
Håland’s current agent is Mino Raiola and while the Premier League club doesn’t always have the best track record with the super-agent, they have worked with him in the past.
Unlike several previous United signings, Håland would be much more than a vanity move. Yes, he’s arguably the most in-demand teenager in the world right now. But he’d also fill a void at Old Trafford.
Romelu Lukaku’s departure meant Solskjær’s options in the attacking third were limited. It was Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial or Mason Greenwood. The latter is no doubt a talent but is the 17-year-old really good enough to fire the Red Devils back into the top four?
Rashford lacks consistency while Martial is an unknown as a centre-forward having spent much of his career at Old Trafford out wide. United lack a pure goalscorer and Håland is just that.
He’s a cheat code in the Austrian Bundesliga. He’s averaging 2.01 goals per game, has a shot accuracy of 49 per cent and is completing 58 per cent of his attempted dribbles. His treble against Genk in the Champions League means he’s scored three hat-tricks already this season.
The Norway international is averaging 0.56 assists per 90, too. He’s a wrecking-ball forward and while regular playing minutes for Red Bull Salzburg will aid his development, it’s clear he’s already outgrown the team and needs a bigger challenge.
Håland doesn’t look like a 19-year-old and doesn’t play like one. There’s an experience to his game that so many youngsters lack. He has a clinical edge usually seen in seasoned forwards, not one with fewer than 100 appearances to his name in all competitions.
United need him more than he needs United. With the list of admirers swelling by the day, the Red Devils will have to do something special to convince Håland that his development is best served at Old Trafford.
If they manage to do that, then they have a game-changer and a real difference-maker on their hands.