Manchester United insist they pulled the plug on any potential deal to sign Portugal teen sensation Renato Sanches – dropping a further hint that Louis van Gaal will remain in charge next season.
Benfica starlet Sanches, 18, who was on United’s radar, has signed for Bayern Munich in an intial £27.5million deal that could end up rising to £63million.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has come in for criticism from the club’s fans for failing to land Sanches, who is seen as one of Europe’s hottest prospects.
But United sources insist the club ended the prospect of any potential deal back in February, to look at alternative targets, leaving the way clear for Bayern to land Sanches.
A United insider reportedly told the Daily Mirror that there was initial interest in Sanches but that had since cooled and the decision had been taken to move on and look at “alternative targets” this summer.
The player was reportedly on Jose Mourinho’s shopping list should he take charge at Old Trafford this summer – but news that United ended their pursuit leans to the possibility of Van Gaal seeing out the final year of his contract at Old Trafford.
And with Van Gaal having the final say on Sanches, United’s readiness to back their current manager’s judgement hints at a faith in his ability to continue in the job next season.
Dynamic box-to-box midfielder Sanches, considered Portugal’s biggest talent since the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, signed a five-year deal with Bayern.
The German champions could pay an additional £35m on the completion of performance-related clauses within the agreement between them and Benfica.
There have been claims in Portugal that Sanches is older than 18, with one Portuguese newspaper putting his actual age at 23.
But it is not clear whether this issue played a part in United supposedly backing off from making a concerted bid to sign him.