Manchester United wanted Fulham midfielder Joao Palhinha over new signing Sofyan Amrabat this summer, according to reports.
The Red Devils completed the signing of the Morocco international on transfer deadline day with the Premier League club paying Fiorentina a €10m loan fee to complete a season-long move.
There is also an option to make the move permanent and if Man Utd trigger that clause then Fiorentina will receive €20m and up to another €5m in potential add-ons.
Man Utd had been linked to Amrabat all summer with reports in Italy convinced all summer that a deal would go through after Erik ten Hag ‘promised’ to complete a move for the midfielder.
However, Football Insider claim that Amrabat wasn’t Ten Hag’s top target with Man Utd ‘very keen to land’ Palhinha from Fulham before being ‘priced out’ of a transfer.
Sources have told Football Insider that Fulham’s Palhinha was their ‘number one defensive midfield target’ but they were ‘eventually forced to turn their full attention to a move for’ Amrabat.
In the end Man Utd ‘did not have the budget to pursue a move for Palhinha’ with the Cottagers setting their asking price for the Portuguese midfielder to £90m.
Palhinha almost completed a move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich instead but that transfer fell through on deadline day and the 28-year-old will now remain at Fulham until at least January.
But former Man Utd defender Gary Neville insists that the deal for Amrabat was not a “panic” buy as the Red Devils “wanted him from day one”.
“No I don’t think the Amrabat one is a panic because they have wanted him from day one,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“I think he’s [Ten Hag] wanted a ball-playing midfield player. Go back 12 months to Frenkie De Jong and basically Mount isn’t a ball-playing midfielder, I think he presses well, I think he links well, I think he runs forward
“I think he has always wanted this type of player. I don’t think it’s a panic, Erik ten Hag wants a player like this and I just don’t know why it hasn’t happened earlier, obviously the other signings were brought in earlier in the summer and there has been an issue with players going out.
“The way this season has started, the performance levels have been poor and I know they have picked up six points but it could have easily been a lot less than six points.
“Wolves and [Nottingham] Forest games they were very fortunate, so I think they have to react and get someone in because that midfield is a massive problem.”