Former Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has revealed that the club thwarted interest in Jack Grealish from Manchester United in 2012.
Grealish, a boyhood Villa fan, has enjoyed a fantastic rise with the West Midlands club by progressing through the club’s academy and captaining the side to Premier League promotion last season.
The midfielder, still only 24, has impressed upon his step up to the top flight this term and he has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford.
Speaking to the Claret & Blue podcast, however, McLeish revealed interest from United back eight years ago, when he was Villa boss and Grealish was a promising 16-year-old.
“At that moment we felt people were getting in contact with him to leave Villa,” McLeish said.That was one of the main reasons to get him involved with us [in the first team].
“He would have been on the bench anyway because of the casualties we had. He was the best youngster coming through.
“When we played Man United we heard he was in a restaurant being courted by one of the agents to try and get him to Man United.
“We were a bit alarmed about that so we fought well to keep him. We knew he loved Villa, his old man as well. We had them in speaking to them. They’re lovely people.”
McLeish added: “They asked for something and the club went it’s too much but, finally, you come to an agreement and everybody’s happy.
“Jack stayed at Aston Villa, which is great to see one of the great players of Villa nowadays staying with his boyhood club.”
Grealish, who was promoted to the Villa first team in the summer of 2013, has scored nine goals and eight assists this term.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is said to be targeting the midfielder as part of his hunt for exciting British talent.
The player could take his future into his own hands if Villa, two points adrift of safety in the Premier League table with 10 games to go, get relegated.
In other news, United are said to be looking for a striker, with Odion Ighalo set to return to China when his loan deal at Old Trafford expires on Monday.