Borussia Dortmund recently completed the signing of Manchester United target Erling Haaland from Red Bull Salzburg. The Norwegian striker’s £17.1 million release clause was activated by the German club looking to bolster their attack after a rocky start to the season.

United fans bewildered?

There was much speculation around the teenager’s potential move to Old Trafford which peaked amidst rumours he was on a flight to England for talks with the club. It has been the main topic of conversation amongst United fans who must now be scratching their heads wondering how the goalscorer has slipped away.

Every link between player and club seemed to suggest it was a done deal. The chance to be reunited with compatriot and former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared the perfect fit, and a club so desperate for a natural number 9 looked the perfect location.

However, it was not enough for Haaland and this is bad news for the Red Devils as another priority target turns them down.

Have United lost their pulling power?

10 years ago, Old Trafford was the preferred destination for most of the world’s best players. But now it seems they might struggle to beat top European clubs to the signatures of players they so desperately need in their current transition period.

United are said to have met the player’s release clause but rejected the additional conditions of the transfer. Negotiations were halted with the value of a potential buy-out clause which United were believed to be unhappy about (Sky Sports).

It has been uncommon in most of United’s recent history for players to want a buy-out option included, as it was seen as the pinnacle of football. If players were at one of the best clubs in the world, why would they need the option of a buy-out?

Unfortunately for United fans, times have changed. They are no longer the dominant force in world football that they once were, and they are much more likely to come across players and agents driving a hard bargain.

What has to change?

Top players want assurances – like Champions League football most importantly. United can’t currently provide that, and may not be able to depending on their second half of the season.

Therefore, there is no wonder that a player of Haaland’s calibre, who has already scored goals in Europe, would want a fall-back option. Going forward, United fans should be prepared to miss out on other top targets, especially if they fail to secure qualification for Europe’s elite competition.

The current situation makes United’s second half of the season that much more important. Champions League football next season is crucial. Whether they get there with a top-four finish or through winning the Europa League is irrelevant, as long as they get there.

After failing to find a long-term manager since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, Solskjaer appears to be backed by the board in the transitional phase United find themselves in. Returning to Europe’s most prestigious competition will give the Reds their pulling power back. Combine this with Ed Woodward’s willingness to spend big and Solskajer will have the necessary tools to rebuild the squad and lead United back to glory.