Mats Daehli transfer makes no sense for Manchester United or player
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In football, the logical seems to rarely happen. That United will produce good young players via the club’s academy has been a pretty safe exception to that rule until recent years. Fans will have watched players such as Eikrem, Morrison and Pogba stand out and yet before they’ve made any kind of mark on the first team, they’re off elsewhere for various reasons. That it’s happened again this summer with Mats Daehli is much more of a shock though.
To provide some context, Daehli is an incredibly talented young man who’s been at United since the start of 2011. Despite being small in stature, he comes to life when the ball is at his feet – clever shimmies and sudden bursts of pace enable him to drift past opponents with ease whilst a natural unselfish streak means he’s often the one setting up the chances rather than finishing them off. Before signing he was compared to both Iniesta and Xavi and his every movement has been closely reported on by the expectant Norwegian press.
For club he started slowly before flourishing in his first full season, winning the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award and signing a professional contract on his 17th birthday in March 2012. His second season as an U18 started as strongly as the first finished but his form certainly tailed off in the closing months. In both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons he featured for Warren Joyce’s Reserves/U21 side, emphasising again how highly regarded he is, something reflected by his standing in the Norwegian international set-up. Although he took a break from the national side to focus on United, he’s an integral part of the Norwegian U19 side and has played once for their U21 team.
Everything seemed set for Daehli to make the step up to the U21s this coming season along with the likes of Barmby, Pearson and Januzaj (who’s now too old to be an U18 player). Unlike when Morrison, Pogba, Fryers and Eikrem all left, there hadn’t been any speculation to suggest that Daehli could be off. Most players who leave United and specifically are sold by United tend to do so with some kind of a fanfare with weeks of speculation before the sucker-punch of reality hits – that they have actually gone.
Each case has had a fairly logical explanation as to why the player has gone:
- Pogba wanted playing time and more money
- Fryers felt insulted by United’s low contract offer
- The club gave up on Morrison
- Eikrem wanted and needed first team football
Although being disappointed that those players did indeed move on, the various reasons as to why make some sense. With Daehli, citing that he needs first team football simply doesn’t make sense. At 18 and 5 months and being his size there is absolutely no rush and indeed similar footballers to him at a similar age are no further along the footballer career curve than he is. There is nothing to suggest that Daehli’s progress has slowed or that he needs to speed up his transition from youth football to the first team. For those reasons, I’m sceptical about the reasons for his move.
It’s not uncommon for truths about a player’s move to be confined to unquantifiable rumours and gossip spread by word of mouth from someone close to the player in question. United and Alex Ferguson were in some ways most open about the reasoning behind sales with regards to Pogba, Morrison and Fryers maybe down to frustration or the fact that their stature within the game was still nowhere near its peak. With regards to Daehli, there is no way this is as simple as a player getting ahead of himself or being badly advised or even homesickness; I’ve no problem in suggesting that somewhere a relationship must have been broken or something additional has happened to either force United to sell or Daehli to demand a move. It was only last week that the club’s official website posted quotes from Ronny Johnsen, talking him up for the future.
Losing Mats is an incredible shame and hopefully he’ll be able to fulfil his unquestionable potential with Molde and a bigger club in the future. United have almost certainly inserted some kind of buy-back clause into the deal, as they do with many similar transfers, but it’s worth noting that United and English clubs tend not to make any use of them. This may not be a transfer that has major repercussions for football in England but one of the most talented young footballers in Europe has inexplicably left; let’s just hope that this doesn’t become a regular occurrence going forwards.