Jack Grealish has confessed that he came close to joining Manchester United in 2020, 12 months before heading to the other side of town in a £100m deal.
Grealish impressed immediately upon Aston Villa’s return to the Premier League in 2019/20 and was heavily pursued by United, who were desperately on the lookout for more creativity.
For whatever reason, a deal never materialised and Grealish ended up penning a new contract with Villa that contained the £100m release clause which Manchester City happily triggered before the start of the current campaign.
“But after the United game I said to Christian Purslow [Aston Villa’s chief executive] and my agent ‘if I’m not leaving, I’ll sign my new contract’.
“I went in with my dog on Tuesday morning, signed the deal, and played later that day. We all agreed on the clause and if any team hit that, it’s a win-win because it means I’ve had an unbelievable season and Villa got £100m.”
Grealish has never hidden his love and admiration for former side Villa, even admitting that he hopes to return to the club one day like Ashley Young.
“You can’t imagine how hard it was for me to leave,” he continued. “I went for a run in the morning, a load of people took photographs of me and it was all on social [media] that I was staying.
“I came back and had to address all the players and staff. There were about 70 people there. I spoke for about a minute-and-a-half, then I had to stop because I had a lump in my throat and was crying.
“I was a bit surprised by some of the backlash when I left. I’d never want a toxic relationship with anyone there. I owe everything to them and I wouldn’t be at City without Villa.”