“We weren’t intending on signing anyone else” – The £ 4million transfer decision Sir Alex Ferguson made after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer advice


“It does not surprise me United have bought him because they have a great eye for a young player.United have done well again to see the potential in the guy.

“He is good raw material and there is no better place for him to be in terms of getting the chance to build on that.“There is no better manager than Sir Alex Ferguson to bring out the best in him.”

In an infamous picture taken in July 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson can be seen posing with the three Manchester United players signed to offset the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

United’s legendary boss is stood smiling in an all-black training gear get up. On one side, Antonio Valencia; on the other, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen.

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There was, however, one other player United signed that summer. His name: Mame Biram Diouf.

He might not be remembered fondly by supporters, but at the time, United believed they had pulled off quite a coup by signing an exciting raw talent who had the potential to be a leading marksman in Europe.

The Senegalese striker moved to Scandinavia in 2007 when he signed for Molde, the first step on his eventual pathway to Old Trafford two years later.

Diouf netted an impressive 10 goals in 11 appearances as Molde were promoted to the top-flight of Norwegian football and netted another seven during his first season in the top-flight.

In the next season, he had netted 12 goals by mid-July – around the mid-point in the Norwegian season – including four goals in one match against high-flying Brann which accelerated United’s interest in the player.

Mame Biram Diouf impressed at Molde FK

They had already been watching Diouf for two years, with Ferguson personally alerted to the player’s potential by reserve team coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who had himself been a success at Old Trafford after a similar spell with Molde.

Five days after his four-goal haul, United confirmed they had reached an agreement to sign the forward, acting swiftly to get him before any other side could.

“We weren’t intending to sign anyone else after last week,” Ferguson admitted. “We feel we have a full squad – but the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids, so we had to decide whether we acted or did not act. We decided to act and he’ll be the last person we sign. “

As part of the deal, Diouf was loaned back until the end of the Norwegian season in November as Molde finished midtable, netting another four goals in the league and two in the NM-Cup Final as they lost on penalties to Aalesund.

Diouf officially joined United in January 2010

On December 23, Christmas came early for Diouf when he was granted a work permit, making him eligible to play for United in January. The forward was assigned the No.32 shirt, which had been vacated by Carlos Tevez the previous summer.

“He has adapted very well to our training regime and has looked very impressive,” Ferguson said. “He is quick, very good in the air and a good striker of the ball. Overall, he is a really good center-forward and he will play a part this season.”

The young forward would make his debut away to Birmingham, coming onto the pitch in the 81st minute with the scores level. Ferguson had hoped Mane could emulate Solskjaer with a goal on his senior debut, but three minutes after coming on, those hopes were dashed when Darren Fletcher was sent off, forcing United into a tactical switch.

Diouf comes on for his debut against Birmingham City

“You won’t see a softer sending off,” Ferguson fumed afterwards. “For a start, Darren’s not that kind of player. It’s a simple clip on the boy [Jerome], who actually stumbled. I think it was a terrible decision and it gave them some momentum.

“I’d hoped to put Diouf up front with Wayne. We know he can play alongside someone, but to play on his own in his first game was difficult for him.”

He wouldn’t have to wait long for his second chance, though. The following weekend, Diouf was introduced from the bench against Burnley with United already 2-0 up.

At first, he struggled to get into the game, but soon he would get his moment. Fellow summer signing Valencia played a dangerous ball towards the opposition box and as’ keeper Brian Jensen came racing out to collect it, Diouf darted forward and lifted a header over him and into the unguarded net.

The Senegal forward raced towards the Stretford End in style, producing an acrobatic flip before pointing to the name on the back of his shirt in celebration.

Diouf celebrates his first United goal

“It felt good. I played and scored and the team won, which is the most important thing. I am happy for the team and myself,” he said at full-time.

“For the first two or three minutes I was very nervous. But after that you are only thinking about football. When you are on the pitch, you forget about all the other people and just do your job.

“I do not know whether I will play more games. I am not the one who is deciding. I have to be ready for my next chance. I have settled in well. Everyone has been so nice to me. I have not had any problems. It has been fantastic. I can learn from Owen, [Dimitar] Berbatov and [Wayne] Rooney. “

Diouf vowed to learn from United’s established forwards

Ferguson praised Diouf for having ‘a lot of good attributes’, but he’d only play one minute in the following match as United lost 2-1 against Man City in the semi-final of the League Cup, with the man he replaced at Old Trafford, Tevez, netting both goals for the home side.

Two days later, the former Molde man was thrown into action at reserve level to see how he’d cope. His response was emphatic as he netted a hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Sunderland.

Yet he still struggled to settle and would play only 54 more minutes of first-team football before the end of the season, and only net one goal from his next four reserve outings.

Valencia, Diouf and Rafael Da Silva celebrate United’s League Cup final win over Aston Villa in 2010

With doubts over Diouf’s development, United targeted another striker and in April 2010 agreed a deal to bring Javier Hernandez to the club at the end of the season.

Diouf knew he needed regular playing time if he were to ever make it to Old Trafford, and after speaking to Ferguson, they agreed it would be best for him to head out on loan the following season.

Diouf moved 21 miles north to Blackburn, a side fighting to stay in the Premier League, and spoke to compatriot El-Hadji Diouf about what to expect by joining him at Ewood Park.


“Sir Alex Ferguson told me this would be a good place to play and that is why I am here,” the United loanee said. “He explained to me about Sam Allardyce and told me about their friendship.

Mame Biram Diouf played with Phil Jones at Blackburn

“That is why I am here and am looking forward to my chance. I came here to play more games and score more goals. That is why I like it.

“We will see in the end what happens. The only thing that matters at the moment is now. I am living day by day and hopefully I will do well. “

Diouf got off to the perfect start with a hat-trick against Norwich in the League Cup and a consolation goal in a defeat by Arsenal at the end of August.

Things looked like they would change for the better, yet he’d only score another two goals that season as Allardyce was replaced by Steve Kean in the managerial hot seat and Rovers only managed to survive relegation from the top-flight on the final day of the season.

Diouf celebrates after scoring for Blackburn against West Brom

“From now on I can not think about Manchester United and I will not,” Diouf said. “My vision at the moment is just to play for Blackburn Rovers and to help them.

“At the end of the season, we will see what happens, but that does not matter at the moment.”

Diouf ended the season with just six goals from 29 senior appearances, but returned to United with much more experience and remained confident he could still play a role for Ferguson.

“Of course I’d like to stay at Manchester United. Everyone dreams about playing for this club,” he explained. “When I got a chance to be with them, I always wanted to be here. I want to win trophies here.

“I’ll do my best, but we’ll see what happens after pre-season.”

Diouf, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand in training

Diouf’s reward was to return to United, and he was named as part of the squad for the 2011 pre-season tour of America, despite interest from recently-relegated Blackpool in a loan deal.

He came on during the first match, a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution, and in the second game against the Seattle Sounders, he came on at half-time to score in a resounding 7-0 win.

A month later, Diouf netted twice in Paul Scholes’s testimonial against New York Cosmos but still could not manage to break into the first-team squad on a regular basis.

Diouf was not included in the United squad for the Community Shield win against City and instead found himself back in the reserves a week later.

David de Gea and Mame Biram Diouf pose with the Community Shield trophy

Diouf netted five goals in the opening three matches of the reserve campaign but still only managed to make it onto the bench three times in the Premier League that season, with his only senior appearances coming from the left wing in the League Cup.

He’d netted another two goals in a 4-0 win over Liverpool reserves, but as the January transfer window loomed on the horizon, Diouf knew he needed a change of scenery.

There was interest in another loan move, this time to Wigan, but Diouf, then 23, was keeping his options open ahead of a pivotal decision in his career.

“It is an option at the moment and a good one. I want to go and play week in, week out and try to impress Sir Alex Ferguson,” he said. “If I can finish the season strongly, I can challenge for a position next season like Danny [Welbeck] has done this season.

Diouf left United after just two years

“Wigan could be a key for me. I have done okay for Blackburn, but need to do well on my next loan. There are other teams interested as well.”

Diouf approached the window with the intention of leaving on loan and coming back to fight for a starting place, but when an offer of a permanent transfer from Hannover came in, United found it too good to turn down.

Two years after arriving at United in the January transfer window, Diouf was on his way out.

He’d enjoy two years in Germany where he’d net an impressive 35 goals in 71 appearances, before returning to English football with a six-year spell at Stoke.

Diouf scored for Stoke away to City

Following his spell in Staffordshire, Diouf moved to the Turkish side Hatayspor, where he began an unlikely resurgence story.

During their first ever campaign in the Turkish top-flight, Diouf netted 19 goals in 38 appearances, acting as the catalyst for their unlikely surge to sixth place.

It marked his best goal-scoring season since the 2009 campaign at Molde, the very one that had convinced Ferguson to take a chance on him.

Mame Diouf is the Hatayspor captain

His impact was so impressive that Turkish giants Besiktas even tried to sign him, but Hatayspor responded by naming him captain.

The highlight of 2021-22 campaign for Diouf was not his 12 goals, though. But a bizarre Turkish Cup match against Eyupspor which saw Diouf play in goal twice in the match, following red cards for two different ‘keepers, and become the hero as they won the subsequent penalty shootout.

It might not have worked out for him at Old Trafford, but a decade on, Diouf is proving Ferguson was right about his quality.




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