Saha: I had to stand up to Fulham to seal move

Wednesday 01 April 2020 07:00

Louis Saha claims he has no regrets about the dramatic transfer saga that saw him leave Fulham to join Manchester United in January 2004.

Speaking to UTD Podcast, the French striker recalled the hot-tempered negotiations between the two clubs, and explained how he felt forced to challenge the Cottagers in order to help the move materialise.
The west London club were riding high in the Premier League table at the time, buoyed by Saha's 13 league goals that term. And when United came calling in the mid-season transfer window, they were unwilling to let the left-footed striker go without a fight.
UTD Podcast: How Saha joined United Video

UTD Podcast: How Saha joined United

UTD Podcast clip | Louis Saha explained why he had to "force" through his 2004 transfer from Fulham to Old Trafford...

"They [Fulham] played it as 'it's a business world'," remembers Louis. "So some price was agreed, and I knew about it, and my agent was saying to me that they wanted to increase the price to make the most of it. 
“So I let it go, but at some point, where you feel this opportunity will go because it's a January transfer [and] you see the clock ticking, you stand and say: 'No, they [United] will take somebody else and I don't want this to happen.'
"So I gave my word in some ways, they gave their words, and I said: 'No, that's not how it works.' If you say something, you keep your word, and I was really unhappy about the situation. Even if I'm professional, I express it. I have the right to speak and say: 'No, I want to go.' 
“So I did what I think was the right thing, because everybody in this world, if you have a job opportunity somewhere else and there is no judgement, then you can go, you know, even [to the] competition. Sport's a bit more difficult. They used the public [to apply pressure]. But at the end of the day I knew I'd been really honest, I'd given my all, I'd helped them to promotion, so I had no difficulty to actually go where I thought was fair.”
UTD Podcast: What made Saha cry in 2008? Video

UTD Podcast: What made Saha cry in 2008?

How does it feel to miss a Champions League final? Louis Saha pulls no punches in his admirably honest UTD Podcast...

Saha had first learned of the Reds' interest from a fellow French international who was already at Old Trafford.
"A few phone calls came from [former Fulham player] John Collins, and Mikael Silvestre said to me that the club is looking after you, they are looking at your performances. 
“But during that time I had one or two injuries that slowed down the process. So for that I knew that I needed to be a bit more consistent. When you receive the call from the boss [Sir Alex Ferguson], you think how natural it is, because you think that you've been doing well and that's why. But until you're really on the train or on the plane to go to Manchester you [don't] realise that the thing is going to happen.”
Saha was a crucial player in United's return to domestic dominance between 2006-2008.
Like many former United transfer targets, Saha remembers a slightly surreal initial call from then manager Ferguson.
"I was at home," laughs our one-time no.9. "Did I know the phone call was coming? Yes. My agent [told me]. It was a bit strange because you still doubt – maybe it's a joke or something like this! So you are a bit careful about the accent! 
“Then you say: 'Okay, this seems for sure.' It was nice because obviously it was concrete. The way he talks, you really have that voice where – even if you only understand half of it – it reassures you. You feel like part of his plan; part of what he's really looking for for, not years, but he's saying that 'I like your style' and makes you feel like you're going to embed straight away to his team. 
“I was seeing the players they had already, and seeing how I can fit, how I can actually be different and create those solutions for him. I see straight away that I was completely different [to the other players]. I had the aggressiveness in some ways, I had the different solution, and that's why I felt very confident to go there. But at the same time, the amount of pressure as well... you have to be very naive in some ways to go there and not be feeling it. Because if you are conscious about it, that's where pressure comes.”
Saha embraces Sir Alex Ferguson at last summer's Treble Reunion match.
Chris Coleman: "The speculation is not going to go away – I understand that. From our point of view, if we sell Louis Saha at any price in January then I'm cutting my own throat. I've explained that to my chairman and he is under the same impression. I'm under no illusions – he may not be here next season. He's banging in goals left, right and centre so, if a club does come in for him with a massive offer over the summer, then he may move on. But we'd be committing suicide if we sold him right now."
Alex Ferguson: "Three years ago he played against us in the FA Cup and did very well and that is when our interest began. When Fulham came into the Premiership it was impossible to do any business at that point but we kept looking at him and this year we decided to make an offer. That was refused but it started the negotiations and we are delighted that we have been able to secure his transfer. Louis has two good feet, he is very quick and aggressive and is good in the air. They are great assets to have and a little bit different from the players we have at the moment."
Alex Hayes (Sunday Tribune): 'Ferguson must be hoping that Saha, who signed a five-and-a-half year contract, will continue in the same vein of form at United. Despite their second place in the Premiership and next month's second round Champions League rubber against Porto, Ferguson's men have been unusually goal-shy this season. When Ruud van Nistelrooy does not score, as has been the case for the last four matches, no one seems capable of stepping into the Dutchman's shoes.'
You can listen to the full Saha episode of UTD Podcast now, on Deezer and all of your favourite podcast platforms.