Mesut Ozil ‘hijack': how Man U tried to steal Arsenal's man
Manchester United panicked when they couldn't get Bilbao's Ander Herrera on Manic Monday
MONDAY won't go down as the finest day in the history of Manchester United. The Premier League champions finally got their hands on Marouane Fellaini – though at £27.5m they had to pay over the odds for the Everton midfielder – but they lost Athletic Bilbao playmaker Ander Herrera in a move that, according to the Daily Mirror, "went horribly wrong".
Worse, the collapse of that deal allegedly panicked United into what the Mirror describes as an attempt to "hijack" Arsenal's signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid. Apparently United made a series of "desperate phone calls" in the hope of snatching the 24-year-old German playmaker from under the nose of Arsenal.
United thought they might be in a with a chance of derailing Arsenal's bid because of events earlier in the summer.
The Guardian reports that Mustapha Ozil, the player's father and agent, met the Real board at the end of last season to discuss a contract extension beyond 2016 and a wage hike to reflect his popularity among the Madrid fans. But the club refused to accede to the Ozils' request and consequently "feelers were put out to a number of Premier League sides over the course of the summer".
United were apparently one of those clubs and perhaps if Alex Ferguson had still been manager he might have acted with greater alacrity than his successor, David Moyes. His hesitation, a transfer trait more commonly associated with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, put the Gunners in the driving seat as the transfer deadline loomed.
What seems to have clinched the deal for Arsenal was Wenger's linguistic skills. Fluent in German, the Frenchman outlined to Ozil the role he would have at the Emirates if he put pen to paper.
"I'm a player who needs the confidence [of the manager]," Ozil explained to German television yesterday. "At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses.
"I am really looking forward to [playing for Arsenal] because I have the faith of the coach. I had spoken to him at length on the telephone, he explained his plans and that he has faith in me – that is what I need as a player."
The capture of Ozil has electrified Arsenal - players as well as fans. As shirt sales go through the roof at the official Arsenal shop, Theo Walcott expressed his delight at the prospect of playing alongside Ozil. "It's a fantastic signing," said the England winger. "He has shown for his club and country that he is a fantastic player. It's very exciting."
Meanwhile in Madrid, the loss of Ozil is just beginning to sink in, with Sami Khedira admitting his disappointment at the departure of his fellow German international. "I wasn't surprised, I had known about it for two or three days," said Khedira. "I regret the decision, it could weaken [Real Madrid], from a sporting point of view." ·