Speaking in Friday’s pre-match press conference, the assistant manager said the Reds had been advised that gaining a work permit for the young Serbian may have proved difficult.
“We went down the road of trying to obtain a work permit,” Phelan said. “We made a tentative approach to get one, and what we got back from the Home Office (or these people you deal with) is that we couldn’t get it through in time for when we had to make a decision on Adem in January.
“The point then is do you lay out the money for Adem when there is the possibility you could or couldn’t get the work permit? We decided it wasn’t the time to do it.
“I’m not sure how we’ve left the situation to be honest, the manager would be better to answer that, but as it stands at the moment Adem Ljajic won’t be joining us in January.”
Rumours have circulated in the press that a lack of funds were responsible for United’s decision to pull out of the deal, but the Reds’ assistant manager was quick to quash that notion. He insisted that the approach to obtain a work permit is proof that money is not an issue.
“It’s not to do with money that I know of, I don’t think it’s an issue. We definitely went to try and get the work permit or made a point to get it and we were told it would be an issue, so we couldn’t make a decision from that point on.”
With United’s policy of producing a healthy number of youngsters, Phelan admitted that it was slightly disappointing to not have the chance to bring Ljajic to the club, but with the rules that are in place, it was just unfortunate that the deal could not go through.