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Erling Haaland & Man Utd: Why Raiola not to blame if move fails

COMMENT: So do they do it? Even if he's involved? Even if he's the man sitting across from them at the table? Do Manchester United push through with their pursuit of Erling Haaland...?

The he in question is Mino Raiola. And the short answer to the above is, 'yes'.

Per-Joar Hansen, Norway's assistant coach, let the cat out of the bag - United are interested in Haaland. And there is a real chance RB Salzburg will have a fight on their hands to keep him.

"There is good interest from clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United, but we are very pleased with where he is," revealed Hansen. "The choices he has made so far have been perfect, and he has plenty of time. Chances will come."

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, wants a reunion with his former Molde protege, then he will have to deal with Raiola. The Italian now a card carrying member of Haaland's entourage. He's not the main fixer, that role's with Dad Alfie Inge and Erling's prime agent, Tore Pedersen. But he is available, on call, and should the decision be made for Haaland to leave Salzburg, he'll jump into action.

"My dad has regular contact with him, yes," says Erling. "He was involved when I signed for Salzburg, so I have faith that he can help me."

But as much as it's being portrayed as a problem for United, perhaps even a deal breaker, the opposite is more the truth. The relationship between United and the super agent is good. It isn't in absolute robust health, but it also isn't in the dire straits as has been claimed - despite all the angst around Paul Pogba.

Yes, Raiola has had his say on Pogba and his wish to leave for Real Madrid. But this is strictly the tail wagging the dog stuff. Raiola wouldn't be in the press, nor on social media, trying to shake things up without the approval of the player. He never acts independently. With no signed contract and a partnership secured by a handshake, Raiola only kicks into action on instructions from his client. If Pogba was feeling pressured. If he believed he was being taken advantage of, the midfielder could simply end his association with a phone call and sign for someone else.

It's why Romelu Lukaku's split from Raiola was done with so little fanfare. So effusive with his praise for the Italian upon signing for United, the Belgian sought new representation ahead of his move to Inter Milan. And it must be said... the bust-up with Mike Phelan in Shanghai; the decision to go AWOL and train with Vincent Kompany's Anderlecht; even arriving for preseason overweight, all this occurred after Lukaku's relationship with Raiola had long been dissolved.

And while some inside Carrington do curse his name, there's also a begrudging admission that re-establishing their connection with Raiola hasn't left the club worse off. No-one has had cause to complain about Sergio Romero. Nor the impact made by Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his 18 months with the club. Henrikh Mkhitaryan's arrival may not have worked out, but there's never been any bitterness or ill-feeling expressed by the player's camp over his time at Old Trafford.

So a love-in for Raiola? Well, not quite. Of course the commissions are madness. And you do wonder about that money leaving the English game when seeing the demise of the likes of Bury. But Raiola is working within the system. Within the boundaries that have been set up. And of course he's going to chance his arm. Just as Ed Woodward, United vice-chairman exec, did all summer regarding Pogba and Real Madrid.

Pogba isn't twice the player he was when leaving Juventus three years ago. Indeed, without the potential tag at 26, this column would argue he's worth less. But Woodward, like Raiola, chanced his arm, demanding €160-200m from Real Madrid to sell the midfielder. And also like Raiola, he'd argue - no matter how obnoxious the figures may be - that he was defending the best interests of his client: the club.

This industry isn't a cartoon, with distinct black and white characters. There's a reason why Raiola can work confidently with a handshake while others, including multi-national management firms, will demand a signature on an exclusive, long-term service contract. There's something to be said for the loyalty Raiola generates from his players and their families.

Alfie Haaland went through the wringer as a player. He saw the good - and the bad. The former Leeds United and Manchester City midfielder is no mug. Nor is Tore Pedersen. And while we're at it, you can add Solskjaer to that Norwegian trifecta.

With Raiola sitting across from him, the United manager won't blink. If there's value in adding Haaland to his squad, Solskjaer will negotiate with the Italian. Reality and myth can be separated inside Carrington.

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Paul Vegas

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