Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed Erling Braut Haland at Molde, but that doesn't mean United is at the front of the pack to sign Salzburg's 19-year-old breakout Norwegian star.
Erling Braut Håland was the talk of Europe on Tuesday after the Norwegian youngster scored a Champions League hat trick for Red Bull Salzburg, becoming the first teenager to score more than once on his debut in the competition since Wayne Rooney in 2004.
Håland only joined Salzburg from Norwegian club Molde in January and it is only this season that he is regularly playing after being introduced gradually during his first few months.
Incredibly, the 19-year-old’s Champions League treble against Genk this week took his tally for the season already to 17 goals in just nine appearances in all competitions. It was his third hat-trick of the campaign and he has scored 11 in his last six Austrian Bundesliga games.
Håland even scored nine times in one game for Norway against Honduras at this year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup, just a few months ago.
That level of output won’t fail to make Europe’s top clubs sit up and take notice and 90min understands that as many as 15 Premier League sides had scouts in the stadium on Tuesday night to watch Håland in action and witnessed his ruthless demolition of Genk.
Although the identity of the exact clubs is unclear, Chelsea and Manchester City are thought to be very keen, while Borussia Dortmund are considered to be leading the race at this early stage.
Manchester United have long had a strong association with Scandinavia and there may be strong factors at play that work in their favour to take Håland to Old Trafford. He does, after all, fit the profile of a young and driven player that is crucial to the new project at Old Trafford.
Håland made his debut in professional football for lower league Norwegian club Bryne FK, but he joined Molde in 2017 and was managed for two seasons by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It was under Solskjaer’s tutelage that he scored his first senior goals, finishing the 2018 season with 16 in 30 appearances in all competitions – four of those came in a single 21-minute period in a game against a previously unbeaten Brann last July.
“He can become a top striker, for sure. He reminds me of the type of striker [Romelu] Lukaku is,” Solskjaer told the Norwegian media after that game.
The United boss ultimately culled Lukaku when he got to Old Trafford, but Håland also has the pace that makes him a more mobile asset than the Belgian was during his final days at United.
Solskjaer is a legend at Molde for his achievements as both a player and manager, and more broadly in Norwegian football. His influence in convincing any Norwegian talent, not just Håland, to move to Manchester could therefore be huge.
Solskjaer has even already spoken about the possibility of United signing Håland, again during his time at Molde. But herein also lies a problem, as Solskjaer himself acknowledged that the prodigious youngster is not exactly a United fan - although anyone can be persuaded.
“He is probably not the world’s biggest Manchester United fan. But if they come to the door, there are not many who say no to that,” the former Molde boss said.
Not only did Håland Sr. play for two of United’s fiercest rivals during his decade in England, he has particular cause to despise the club after an infamous feud with Roy Keane that last four years.
It began in 1997 when Alf Inge, playing for Leeds, stood over Keane when the United midfielder had damaged his cruciate knee ligament. Later, during a Manchester derby in 2001, a horror tackle from Keane is considered to be what forced Håland into early retirement.
“The knee still hurts, that isn't going to go away. I have to accept that. Did that tackle end my career? Well, I never played a full game again, did I? It seems like a great coincidence, don't you think?” Håland told the Daily Mail in a 2008 interview.
Notwithstanding his father’s personal history, Håland Jr. may have his own reasons to ignore possible advances from Manchester should they come. He was born in Leeds in 2000 – something that actually made him eligible to play international football for England until his senior debut for Norway earlier this month – and is a Leeds fan.
“The dream is to win the Premier League with Leeds,” he even told Aftenposten in 2017.
However, such a dream is never likely to be reality. Moreover, the same interview, conducted shortly after Håland joined Molde, made positive reference to Solskjaer being manager.
United famously signed local Leeds hero Alan Smith in 2004, so crossing that rivalry is obviously never completely off the table in the right circumstances. But what would underpin any transfer for Håland is the footballing factors and his own long-term development.
If moving to Manchester, where chances in a young and changing squad would almost certainly be available, and reuniting with Solskjaer would do that, he would surely find it difficult to reject.