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gE CX Man United tried to tempt Jack Grealish away from Aston Villa in 2012, says Alex McLeish – Man Utd
January 19, 2022

Man Utd

News

Man United tried to tempt Jack Grealish away from Aston Villa in 2012, says Alex McLeish

3 min read

Manchester United tried to tempt Jack Grealish away from Aston Villa when he was 16, according to former manager Alex McLeish.

The interest in Grealish, then the star turn in Villa’s academy and on the brink of a first-team breakthrough, occurred in April 2012, just before Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge.

According to McLeish, an agent attempted to persuade Grealish to leave Villa and join United over a dinner but didn’t ultimately succeed.

Manchester United tried to persuade Jack Grealish to leave Aston Villa when he was 16

Manchester United tried to persuade Jack Grealish to leave Aston Villa when he was 16

Manchester United tried to persuade Jack Grealish to leave Aston Villa when he was 16

Grealish, pictured in a NextGen Series match against Sporting Lisbon in 2012, was the gem of Villa's academy at the time and destined for great things

Grealish, pictured in a NextGen Series match against Sporting Lisbon in 2012, was the gem of Villa's academy at the time and destined for great things

Grealish, pictured in a NextGen Series match against Sporting Lisbon in 2012, was the gem of Villa’s academy at the time and destined for great things

United have shortlisted £80million-rated Grealish, now 24, as one of their summer transfer targets with the attacking midfielder enjoying an excellent season on Villa’s Premier League return.

McLeish, who managed Villa in the 2011-12 campaign, told the Claret & Blue podcast: ‘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 set-up].

‘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 [a 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford 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.

Alex McLeish was Villa manager at the time and worked hard to persuade Grealish to stay

Alex McLeish was Villa manager at the time and worked hard to persuade Grealish to stay

Alex McLeish was Villa manager at the time and worked hard to persuade Grealish to stay

United's interest in the teenage Grealish came just before Sir Alex Ferguson's final year there

United's interest in the teenage Grealish came just before Sir Alex Ferguson's final year there

United’s interest in the teenage Grealish came just before Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year there

‘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.

‘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.’

Grealish had scored nine goals and contributed eight assists in all competitions prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, helping Villa reach the Carabao Cup final.

Grealish (left) was invited to train with the Villa first team as a result of United's interest

Grealish (left) was invited to train with the Villa first team as a result of United's interest

Grealish (left) was invited to train with the Villa first team as a result of United’s interest

Ferguson speaks with his fellow Scot McLeish after United beat Villa 4-0 in April 2012

Ferguson speaks with his fellow Scot McLeish after United beat Villa 4-0 in April 2012

Ferguson speaks with his fellow Scot McLeish after United beat Villa 4-0 in April 2012

McLeish knew Villa captain Grealish would flourish even when he watched him as a teenager and believes he’ll be a future England star.

‘I went to a lot of the academy games,’ said the Scottish manager.

‘Even on the day of games, the [academy] boys were playing on the side of the 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 do pretty well to keep him at Villa.

Grealish is once again attracting interest from United following an excellent season for Villa

Grealish is once again attracting interest from United following an excellent season for Villa

Grealish is once again attracting interest from United following an excellent season for 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 gimmie the ball, just gimmie 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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