Man Utd have ceased their attempts to sign Marko Arnautovic with a report detailing the two reasons why, including fan backlash.
The 33-year-old Bologna marksman emerged as a surprise contender to bolster Erik ten Hag’s frontline. Arnautovic spent last season in Serie A following three years in China. His return to European football was a successful one with 14 goals plundered in 33 league outings.
Manchester United lodged a bid of around £7.6m. Bologna rebuffed the offer, though United reportedly remained confident a deal would cross the line eventually.
An improved £8.4m was being readied per reports from Italy. However, the noises coming from Bologna suggested the Austrian firebrand was unavailable at any price.
The Athletic now state that before a second bid has been lodged, United have pulled the plug on the pursuit.
Two major reasons are cited, with the first being the financial aspect of the move. In effect, Bologna priced themselves out of a move for a player who is already 33.
The second reason stems from fan backlash over two alleged incidents of racism.
Fan backlash a ‘contributing factor’
Arnautovic was accused of uttering an anti-Albanian slur at Euro 2020 during Austria’s clash with North Macedonia.
Arnautovic took to social media after the match to protest his innocence, claiming the words he used were not of a racist nature. However, UEFA ultimately handed down a one-match ban.
There were also allegations the player used another racial slur while playing for FC Twente in 2009. Willem II’s Ibrahim Kargbo lodged the complaint, though the Dutch football authorities found no evidence to substantiate the claim.
Arnautovic denied that claim too, though that did not stop concerned Manchester United fans contacting the club.
Indeed, the Athletic report one fan of North Macedonian descent wrote to United for clarity regarding ‘how signing Arnautovic would correspond to the club’s zero tolerance approach to racism.’
Furthermore, ‘several fans’ also emailed chief executive, Richard Arnold, to voice their concerns.
The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell tweeted the rising transfer price along with ‘complaints from fans’ were both ‘contributing factors’ behind United’s abandoning their chase.
Who will United turn to next?
Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all left as free agents this summer. Anthony Martial is currently sidelined with a hamstring issue, while doubts persist over Cristiano Ronaldo’s future. Mason Greenwood also remains unavailable indefinitely.
Clearly, Erik ten Hag needs more depth in the final third, and today’s Euro Paper Talk put PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo in the mix.
Concerns over Ajax ace Antony’s whopping £80m price tag have stopped that pursuit in its tracks. By comparison, Gakpo may cost as little as £35m.
Key to PSV’s willingness to sell could be their progression – or lack thereof – in the Champions League.
They face Monaco in the third qualifying round tonight (Tuesday) with the scores tied at 1-1 after the first leg.
If Eindhoven exit the competition, or progress but lose in the play-off round, they may be more willing to cash in on Gakpo.