They share Norwegian roots, the coach has already helped polish the player and the player is available this summer, when the planet’s most popular sports franchise must make a major splash.
Erling Haaland will be a perfect fit for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Manchester United’s rabid global fan base, estimated at 1.1 billion by one research agency.
The dynamic striker first gained my attention on a documentary featuring Borussia Dortmund teammate Gio Reyna, one of a host of young Americans prospering in Europe.
When Reyna pal Haaland entered the picture, he stole its spotlight. The 6-foot-4 workout fiend has a furious drive. In Solskjaer’s dreams, Haaland stars for a dozen seasons.
That must become reality for a club that last won something of consequence in 2013, when it claimed its fifth Premier League title in seven seasons, that last week got bounced from the Champions League.
Haaland joined Dortmund in January and has registered 23 goals in 23 Bundesliga matches. In all competitions in 2020, including international duty with Norway, he has tallied 39 goals in 37 matches.
He is among the world’s élite right now, as his 1.66 goals-plus-assists rate per match trails only PSG’s Kylian Mbappé (2.01), Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski (1.87) and AC Milan’s Zlatan IbrahimoviÄ‡ (1.87).
Haaland turns 21 on July 21.
His agent Mino Raiola correlated Haaland to Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s famous painting. “(Haaland) is like Munch’s ‘Scream’ because he causes fear in the defenders.”
What’s truly scary is Raiola’s comparison of Haaland to IbrahimoviÄ‡, another of his clients, at age 20 — meaning the prodigy might produce through 2038 or ’39. Good Norwegian wood, indeed.
After scoring four against Hertha Berlin on Nov. 21, Haaland called Raiola and expressed frustration at having been replaced with more than five minutes remaining.
“He wanted to score another,” Raiola told Goal.com. “He was furious! He wants to be the best, even if he’s playing checkers.”
At Norwegian side Molde, Solskjaer (who pronounces his name SOLKS-jar) was manager when Haaland floundered as a rookie and spent time on the bench. After one training session, the ‘keeper, Haaland and Solksjaer remained. Solksjaer fired in cross after cross, and Erling erred on every shot. The coach took the pupil aside for some choice words on mentality and finishing.
Those insights emanated from one of the game’s legendary finishers. Solksjaer knocked in one of two added-time goals in 1999 to give Man U a stunning 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League finale in Barcelona.
Solksjaer started Haaland in Molde’s next game, at Brann on July 1, 2018, and the youngster whipped in four goals in the first 21 minutes.
“He taught me some easy rules,” Haaland told Eurosport of Solksjaer, who covered the art of anticipating the ball’s trajectory, one-touch finesse finishes, not trying to destroy the goal or the keeper with rocket strikes, and maintaining calm. “It was something new that he told me. I trained a bit on that … I had it in my head after that training session. He deserves a lot of credit.”
That December, Solksjaer moved on to Man U. Haaland was sold to RB Salzburg, which peddled him 12 months ago to Dortmund for about $25 million. A release clause makes him available this summer for around $90 million.
This is a bottom-line business. Dortmund made about $70 million when it sold Christian Pulisic to Chelsea. The international TransferMarkt site pegs Haaland’s current market value at $110 million, so that release clause might constitute a bargain.
A high-stakes bidding war might also involve FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, perhaps others, but the edge goes to Man U — it speaks Haaland’s language.
Bayern Munich at Bayer Leverkusen, Total 3 Ov -167: The past four matches between these two at Leverkusen featured 24 goals. Leverkusen, whose last four contests have involved 17 goals, sits atop the Bundesliga. Munich, tied for second with Leipzig, leads Europe with a 5.82 goals-plus-assists rate per match. OVER
Eiche at Atlético Madrid Total 2.5 Un-132: In eight of Eiche’s past 10 matches, two or fewer goals have been tallied. Atlético backstop Jan Oblak, the world’s best goalkeeper, has a five-game clean-sheet streak inside Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. UNDER
Unsellable: Kingsley Coman and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reflect on the Frenchman’s resurgence at Bayern Munich – Bavarian Football Works. Bayern Munich at Bayer Leverkusen, Total 3 Ov -167: The past four matches between these two at Leverkusen featured 24 goals. Leverkusen, whose last four contests have involved 17 goals, sits atop the Bundesliga. Munich, tied for second with Leipzig, leads Europe with a 5.82 goals-plus-assists rate per match.https://t.co/6H45bptzMR
— Bayern Munich (@BayernMunich69) December 14, 2020
Leicester City at Tottenham, Total 2.5 Ov -131: The previous three matches in this series at Tottenham involved 16 goals. This is a ‘keeper’s nightmare, highlighting Jamie Vardy for the visitors and Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son for the hosts. OVER
Last week: 0-3