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Confirmed: Manchester United failed with move to sign £80m target back in 2012

Leicester City v Aston Villa - Premier League
Jack Grealish is one of Manchester United’s top transfer targets this summer (Picture: Getty)

Former Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has revealed that Manchester United’s interest in Jack Grealish extends as far back as 2012, when the midfielder was aged just 16.

Grealish, 24, racked up seven goals and six assists in the Premier League this season before the coronavirus crisis brought English football to a halt in March and his outstanding form has made him one of United’s top targets ahead of the summer transfer window.

The Red Devils may have to spend as much as £80million to convince Villa to part with their prized possession and it appears they foresaw just what a valuable player Grealish would become when Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge of the club.

Jack Grealish runs with the ball during Aston Villa U19's clash with Sporting Lisbon
United were aware of Grealish’s talents back in 2012 (Picture: Getty)

According to McLeish, an agent attempted to lure Grealish to Old Trafford over a slap-up dinner in April 2012, two years before he would make his first-team debut for Villa against Manchester City.

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‘At that moment we felt people were getting in contact with him to leave Villa. That was one of the main reasons to get him involved with us [in the first-team],’ McLeish told the Claret & Blue podcast.

‘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 (in April 2012) 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.

Alex McLeish at the UEFA Euro 2020 Draw
Alex McLeish worked hard to keep hold of Jack Grealish (Picture: Getty)

‘They asked for something and the club told them it was 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.

‘It wasn’t all down to me. Bryan Jones, at the academy, was instrumental and a lot of thanks has to go to him.’

Sir Alex Ferguson watches Manchester United's clash with Burnley
Sir Alex Ferguson was still manager when United tried and failed with a move for Jack Grealish (Picture: Getty)

McLeish had no doubts that Grealish would go on and become a ‘star’ and has backed Villa’s captain to break into Gareth Southgate’s England squad in the near future.

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‘I went to a lot of the academy games,’ McLeish continued.

‘Even on the day of games, the [academy] boys were playing on the side of training ground.

‘I’d see Jack with his famous socks down his legs! He had that swagger. Watching him as a kid on the field ghosting past people with the ball at his feet.

‘You could see all day long he was going to be a star, no doubt about it, which is why we thought we’d have to pretty well keep him at Villa.

‘When Jack came in I saw that, while he wasn’t a big shouter, he was a boy who was willing to take the ball in any part of the pitch.

‘The guy I likened him to at the time was Barry Ferguson. He could have played in any stadium in the world and Barry was fearless in taking the ball, saying: “Just gimme the ball, just gimme the ball!”.

‘You see that kind of thing in Jack. He’s come on leaps and bounds. Not like he was ever not going to do that but, hopefully, he’ll go onto play for England… but not against Scotland!’

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Source: Metro News UK

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