Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo both had brilliant careers at United

Manchester United can use Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to make a point to transfer target Jude Bellingham

Man Utd are trying to sign one of the game's hottest talents this summer and they've proven before they are a perfect club to make the next step at.


For the best teenagers in European football the attraction of Borussia Dortmund at the moment is obvious.

The Bundesliga side have an array of thrilling attacking talent that are all given the opportunity to play and develop, with 20-year-old Jadon Sancho, 19-year-old Erling Haaland and the 17-year-old Gio Reyna the leading lights.

The sales pitch from the Westphalia outfit is simple. Come to Dortmund and if you're good enough you will play, it is seen as an ideal stepping stone to a club at the very highest level, if you prove capable enough.

That's certainly what's going to happen to Sancho, who arrived for £8million from Manchester City and will leave for a fee of around £100million. Haaland will follow, his impact since signing from RB Salzburg has been so impressive he's already being linked with bigger and better things.

So for 16-year-old Jude Bellingham the temptation might be clear and Dortmund's approach will make sense. The Birmingham City midfielder is a once-in-a-generation talent and if he moved to the Westfalenstadion he'd be straight into the first-team picture.

Bellingham doesn't turn 17 until the end of June yet he has already played 2,190 minutes of Championship football, the equivalent of more than 24 full games. Add in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and Bellingham's footballing education already amounts to more than 26 games of senior football.

To put that into context, Angel Gomes, turning 20 in August, is yet to reach four full games' worth of experience, while Tahith Chong, 21 in December, has the equivalent of just over six full games under his belt. Both are considered promising talents worth preserving with by United, but Bellingham's level of exposure ranks him as a class above both, even if he may be playing for a mid-table Championship club and they are battling for a place in the Manchester United side.
Jude Bellingham
(Image: Birmingham Mail)

It's clear that Bellingham's development arc has outgrown Birmingham City. It's time to leave St Andrew's this summer but the fact the Blues are asking for a fee of around £25million for a 16-year-old shows just how highly regarded he is.

Nobody could blame Bellingham for being tempted by the possibility of two or three years at Dortmund, playing every week in the Bundesliga and the Champions League. It's an alluring prospect for a teenager of the highest potential.

Yet United are prepared to fight Dortmund for his signature this summer, despite being keen to take Sancho off the German club's hands as well, and they know just how good the Stourbridge-born protege can be.

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In March Bellingham and his parents were given a tour of Carrington as part of United's play to convince the teenager to choose them ahead of Dortmund.

But a few laps of an impressive training facility aren't the only weapon United can use to show the midfielder that his future lies at Old Trafford.

Arguably no club of the level of United - the step above Dortmund in continental circles - sign as many teenagers and the message has always been age is no barrier at this football club.

That's a mantra Solskjaer abides by, having heard the tales of Sir Matt Busby and worked under Sir Alex Ferguson. It's telling that two of the most explosive teenagers in European football over the last two decades chose United when they were moving in their formative years.

Wayne Rooney swapped Everton for United, while Cristiano Ronaldo moved from Sporting Lisbon. Both were generational talents, throw-in at the deep end. They were trusted to play for one of the world's biggest clubs and they both did okay for themselves and the club. They're not bad examples to follow.

More recently Anthony Martial was signed as a teenager - 19 when he moved from Monaco - and the club have shown patience and perseverance with his development. He could have been moved on under Jose Mourinho but the club saw the bigger picture and the Frenchman has enjoyed his best season to date under Solskjaer this season.

United can point to plenty more players who were signed as teenagers and quickly given the chance to play. Not all were successful but Anderson and Rafael and Fabio da Silva didn't have to wait long to get their opportunities. Phil Jones was one of the most sought after centre backs in the game when he moved from Blackburn at 19 and while his career has stagnated at Old Trafford, he has been given plenty of chances.

Not all teenage stars have the talent or temperament to make the leap. A lot was expected of Nick Powell when he moved from Crewe Alexandra as an 18-year-old, with plenty of Football League experience under his belt, but the spotlight can be bright when young players take such gigantic steps.

But Bellingham has no reason to fear he will disappear under the glare at United. Solskjaer might be getting the balance right with his midfield options now, but the 16-year-old will be given the chance to show he can a part of that group, just as those that have come before him were.