A week after catching a secret flight to Salzburg to speak with Erling Haaland, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found himself at the centre of another airport mystery involving the Manchester United transfer target yesterday.
Reports from Norway claimed Haaland and his father Alf Inge were en route to Manchester from Stavanger, fuelling speculation that United are close to agreeing a deal for the Red Bull Salzburg striker next month.
Solskjaer denied the story at his weekly press conference, pointing out that the 19-year-old Haaland was in fact going on a Christmas holiday at the start of a two-month winter break in Austria.
Nonetheless, it was still interesting that the United manager had up-to-the-minute information on a player he knows personally having worked with him at Molde.
‘Well, he’s not coming to Manchester,’ said Solskjaer, who last week travelled to Salzburg and back on a private jet that continued on to Stavanger close to where the Haaland family are based. ‘I know the boy and his friends and he’s on a Christmas holiday. You can’t fly anywhere from Stavanger, can you? You need to go via (somewhere else).
‘You know I can’t comment on other teams’ players, I’ve said that many times. It’s just one of those things in this job, you get so much speculation all the time.’
Solskjaer was correct and Haaland’s commercial flight with Norwegian airlines landed in Copenhagen, not Manchester, yesterday morning.
His father Alf Inge, who stayed at home in Bryne to attend a Christmas party last night, mischievously posted a photo of his son standing in front of an airport information board.
Solskjaer confirmed that he wants to add to his squad in the January window, with United understood to be hopeful of signing a defensive midfielder as well as Haaland.
‘Yes, as a manager you always hope you can do something, but then again it’s not something that’s nailed on,’ he added. ‘It has to be the right player at the right age who’s going to fit into this squad and for the right value. ‘We’re always looking and the transfer window is open, but it might not happen.’
Solskjaer would also not rule out players leaving next month, with captain Ashley Young and Nemanja Matic among those who could move on. ‘There’s always a chance teams will come and be interested in some of ours,’ he said. ‘Maybe they’re not happy they haven’t played enough, so there may be a chance.’
But one player who will not be leaving is Paul Pogba. Solskjaer said there was no chance of selling the Frenchman in the January transfer window — but admitted that he may not play again until the new year.
Pogba’s lengthy comeback from ankle surgery has been further delayed by illness, leading to suggestions the unsettled midfielder may have played his last game for United ahead of a move next month.
However, the 26-year-old has returned to training at Carrington and Solskjaer dismissed the possibility of Pogba leaving midway through the season.
‘He’s not getting sold in January, no,’ said the United manager, before admitting the World Cup winner may not play again this year.