Manchester United sold Isak Hansen-Aaroen to Werder Breman on deadline day after attempting to get the 19-year-old to sign a new deal at Old Trafford.
The talented midfielder was signed from Norwegian club Tromso in 2020, during Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign at Old Trafford. Yet, he never took to the pitch for United’s first team in a competitive setting.
Some feel aggrieved by that, including the 19-year-old. After all, he was rated as one of United’s biggest talents before his departure.
But how has the situation unfolded? There were positive signs, but ultimately, not enough for a deal to be made. Here, UtdDistrict details how the saga evolved and what went wrong for the talented Norweigan.
Isak Hansen-Aaroen was included in Manchester United’s pre-season tour squad last summer. He was coming off the back of a solid season of Under-21s football at just 18 years of age. He joined the United first-team for their FA Cup final against Manchester City, in the possibility that any midfielder dropped out with injury.
He joined the club alongside Garnacho in the summer of 2020. Fellow countryman Solskjær brought him to England and rated the young star extremely highly. The Reds pipped the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Juventus and Bayern Munich to his signature, and according to Harry Robinson, the Hansen-Aaroen family were ‘touched’ by the effort from the club, such as Christmas cards and calls from Solskjær to the family home. Hansen-Aaroen had a close relationship with Solskjaer, it was added, and when he came over for training, the then-United boss would invite him for dinner to help him settle into his environment.
Hansen-Aaroen was denied a spot in Norway’s Under-19 squad for the U19s European Championships last summer. He was an important player in the side leading up to the competition.
This came from United and Erik ten Hag, who ‘put their foot down’, as reports detailed, which suggested that there were plans for Isak to integrate into the first-team setup for the forthcoming season.
The teenage midfielder made three appearances during that pre-season tour, against Leeds United, Lyon and Wrexham. He registered an assist with a smart pass against the Championship opposition.
However, ahead of the season, Hansen-Aaroen did not go out on loan but instead remained at the club. With United bringing in midfield players Mason Mount and Sofyan Amrabat, as well as Kobbie Mainoo being ahead of him in the pecking order, it appeared like a missed opportunity for the Norwegian to learn his trade in the professional game.
Speaking after the transfer window closed, the youngster explained that there were disagreements about a loan but that it was an option for the January window. “Yes, [it’s] possible [to go on loan in January],” he told Norwegian outlet Verdens Gang. “There is a lot of interest. If we wanted it to be a loan, I know we could go. There were slightly different things that we didn’t quite agree on [in the summer].”
Fast forward to the January transfer window. Hansen-Aaroen had zero involvement with the first-team squad, not even in the squad for any games, and just six months remaining on his deal at Old Trafford.
Despite being highly rated by Ten Hag and the coaching team, Hansen-Aaroen was again left out when United included seven youngsters on a nine-men bench against Wigan Athletic in early January.
Following that game, reports emerged that stated the teenager had been ‘disappointed’ by the lack of opportunities he had been given across the season and was having doubts over signing a new deal. Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Napoli were among the clubs mentioned as interested in the midfielder.
United did not want to lose Hansen-Aaroen and began to take action. In mid-January, UtdDistrict exclusively revealed that there were ‘positive developments’ in negotiations and that United had offered the teenager a ‘significant’ contract. UtdDistrict also revealed that United had planned to send Isak on a loan move last month if he signed new terms.
At that point, there was optimism within the club that a deal would be struck. However, the problem on the player’s side was always a plan towards first-team integration. Whilst the loan plans appeared to be positive, it was something that only materialised in the last week of the window.
Hansen-Aaroen was open to staying at the club, but ultimately decided to look for those first-team opportunities elsewhere after being unconvinced about a realistic pathway to the first-team. A report from the Manchester Evening News added that there were suggestions the player had unrealistic expectations about the chances he would be afforded at United. Others have told UtdDistrict that Hansen-Aaroen’s agent was ‘aggressive’ and wanted more than United were willing to pay.
Another source suggested to UtdDistrict that Hansen-Aaroen’s side had already ‘made up their mind’ about the player moving whilst in discussions with the club. For the club, it became increasingly clear that he would not sign a deal no matter the terms on offer.
United’s strategy had changed. Whilst they were comfortable knowing that they would receive compensation had the midfielder reached the expiry of his contract, they could be better protected by selling him before the deadline.
The move to Werder Breman provides United with a package larger than that they would’ve received through compensation. They have also been able to include a significant sell-on fee and add-ons, as well as matching rights to any club that bids for the player in the future.
Ultimately, the Manchester club have appeared to make the best out of a bad situation, with favourable terms in the deal and the possibility of re-signing the player if he goes on to prove the club wrong in the future.
However, there remain issues on how United deal with these talents, particularly players of Hansen-Aaroen’s ilk.
Angel Gomes is currently playing consistent football at the top level in France with Lille. He left on a free transfer in the year that Isak joined the club, after a similar kind of negotiation problem.
Whilst you can point to the likes of Mainoo and Garnacho as examples of first-team involvement for the greatest talents, many will not realise that Hansen-Aaroen was on par with those two in the academy at one point.
Development of technical midfielders has been limited at Old Trafford, which has also made Mainoo’s rise all the more impressive. Hansen-Aaroen sees a better future for himself away from Old Trafford after seeming to stagnate in a season which seemed like it could be his breakthrough.
Only time will tell if the club will regret their handling of the midfielder’s situation. On this occasion, however, they are at least protected, unlike when Gomes left.
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