Russian coach says Mourinho tried to sign Fyodor Smolov for United

The Jose Mourinho era is over at Old Trafford, and his most recent connection with Manchester United is Roma’s reported interest in Eric Bailly.

But former CSKA Moscow manager Viktor Goncharenko has said, as per Russian outlet Sport24, that Mourinho tried to sign striker Fyodor Smolov during his time in the Old Trafford dugout.

United hosted CSKA in the Champions League group stage back in December 2017, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford.

Goncharenko says that before the game, Mourinho asked if Smolov would join United, but his answer got lost in translation.

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“I had a famous communication with Mourinho,” he said. “Before the match with Manchester United in Manchester, Mourinho comes up to me and starts speaking in English: ‘Listen, will Smolov join our team?’ And I answered him perfectly in my English. 

“It seemed to me that he didn’t understand a thing, but he nodded his head. I said, ‘Of course he will. Take him!’ I don’t know how serious it was. At least he asked”

Goncharenko was asked whether it was his poor English that cost Smolov the chance of a move and said: “Because of my poor pronunciation, yes, ha ha ha!” 

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It is a slightly strange situation to unpack, because Smolov at that time played for Krasnodar, one of CSKA’s domestic rivals.

So of course Goncharenko would want United to come in for the Russian international striker and take him out of the league.

Smolov is 31 now, and has moved from Lokomotiv Moscow to Dynamo Moscow during the January transfer window.

But he would have been 27 then, closer to the prime of his career. Mourinho had that summer brought in Lukaku to lead the line for United, but maybe wanted Smolov to add competition.

As the situation played out, the towering Russian striker did not make the move to Old Trafford. Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace have been linked with bringing Smolov to England at various times, but he has never graced the Premier League.

Sky Sports claim he is known as the ‘Russian David Beckham’ but he never got the chance to follow in the real one’s footsteps and don the famous red shirt at Old Trafford.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.