Manchester United’s decision to sign Henrik Larsson on an emergency loan in 2007 was a shock move, even by Sir Alex Ferguson’s standards.
The Scot was no stranger to left-field decisions in the transfer market, surprising supporters with purchases from Andy Cole to Andy Goram.
The Swede was a target for United when he was at his prime at Celtic but his career at the top level appeared to be over when he left Barcelona for hometown club Helsingborg in 2006.
Ferguson had discarded of main striker Ruud van Nistelrooy that very summer and was seeking an experienced forward to provide back-up to the injury-prone Louis Saha.
However, it wasn’t the Scot that came up with the idea of signing Larsson, with the Athletic claiming it was head scout Jim Lawlor that approached Ferguson with the idea.
Larsson was available due to a break in the Swedish season and Lawlor recommended a three-month loan to Ferguson.
The Swede jumped at the chance to finally move to Old Trafford and made a lasting impression, beyond the three goals that he managed in 13 appearances.
Larsson’s professionalism and experience was vital at an important stage of the season when United were battling on three fronts and it was no coincidence that Ferguson’s side suffered in the Champions League when the Swede returned to Helsingborg.
Larsson has since admitted that his decision not to extend his deal at United – who went on to win the league that season and the Champions League the following year – is the biggest regret of his career.
‘I remember having a talk, some of the players were involved too,’ said Larsson.
‘I said I really appreciate it but I can’t do it. I promised Helsingborg and they invested a lot of money for a small club from Sweden to bring me home. I felt obligated to do what I put pen to paper. I promised them I would come back home.
‘Even though United is so much bigger I felt that I couldn’t break my promise.’
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