Former Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish has revealed that Jack Grealish met representatives from Manchester United to discuss a move to the club all the way back in 2012.
Grealish, who came through the academy at Villa, is now arguably the team’s most important player, and there has been speculation linking him with a summer move to Old Trafford.
But speaking on the Claret & Blue podcast McLeish said United’s interest in the player began when he was just 16 years old.
“At that moment we felt people were getting in contact with him to leave Villa,” he said. “That was one of the main reasons to get him involved with us (in the first team).
“He would have been on the bench anyway because of the casualties we had. He was the best youngster coming through.
“When we played Man United we heard he was in a restaurant being courted by one of the agents to try and get him to Man United.
“We were a bit alarmed about that so we fought well to keep him. We knew he loved Villa, his old man as well. We had them in speaking to them. They’re lovely people.
“They asked for something and the club went it’s too much but, finally, you come to an agreement and everybody’s happy. Jack stayed at Aston Villa, which is great to see one of the great players of Villa nowadays staying with his boyhood club.”
It remains to be seen where Grealish’s future lies, but McLeish recalled watching him during academy games and tipping him for greatness.
“I’d see Jack with his famous socks down his legs!” he added. “He had that swagger. Watching him as a kid on the field ghosting past people with the ball at his feet. You could see all day long he was going to be a star, no doubt about it, which is why we thought we’d have to pretty well keep him at Villa.
“When Jack came in I saw that, while he wasn’t a big shouter, he was a boy who was willing to take the ball in any part of the pitch. The guy I likened him to at the time was Barry Ferguson. He could have played in any stadium in the world and Barry was fearless in taking the ball, saying: ‘Just gimme the ball, just gimme the ball!’.”