Mats Møller Dæhli’s career could not have got off to a better start, with the Norwegian named Manchester United‘s Young Player of the Year in 2013.
Daehli arrived at Old Trafford in February 2011, having impressed for Norwegian lower league side Lyn 1896 FK. He immediately impressed United’s academy chiefs, earning a promotion from the under-18s to the Red Devils’ reserve side in the summer of 2012.
He impressed over the course of that campaign, being crowned the club’s Young Player of the Year. But he found his progress stunted thereafter and opted to return home to Norway to link up with United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Molde.
Solskjaer made no secret of his love of the midfielder, hailing his potential to become one of the best players in the world. He played up Daehli’s talent, though admitted his reluctance to place too much pressure on his shoulders.
“I have seen Mats several times before, including at the Statoil Academy in Kristiansund. In my opinion, he is on a par with the greatest talents in other European levels in his age group,” he said at the time.
“He has made a very good impression in United. They will bet on him. I don’t wish to compare him to others because he is not 19 until March and doesn’t need any extra pressure.
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“But Mats is the type of player who likes to get between defensive lines, take people on and create openings. When you see the (Samir) Nasri’s, (David) Silva’s and that type of player, you look at Mats and think he could end up as similar in his style.”
After a year at Molde, during which Solskjaer left for Cardiff City, Daehli was brought back to the United Kingdom by the Norwegian. The Bluebirds boss claimed that United had rivalled his side for Daehli’s signature, with the midfielder making his senior debut in English football in January 2014.
Daehli failed to impress for Cardiff though and followed Solskjaer out of the exit door less than a year after arriving. He decided to attempt to rebuild his career in Germany, first at Freiburg.
Unfortunately for Daehli, he made more appearances for their reserve side than he did for their senior team. That led to him departing for St Pauli two years later, where he went on to become a stalwart for the second tier side.
After making 86 appearances over three years, he was allowed to join Genk, though struggled for game-time at the Belgian side. He has now ended up back in Germany, with FC Nuremberg, where he has again cemented himself in their starting line-up.
Despite the challenging nature of his career since he departed Old Trafford, Daehli has insisted that he has no regrets. And he also made it clear that his decision to leave United was the correct one.
“It is a hard decision when you are young. I cannot say it was the right decision, or the wrong decision. It is hard for me to say, but what I experienced in the year after Manchester United. I won the cup with Molde and then I got to play in the Premier League,” he told the Manchester Evening News last year.
“I went on many trials from 12, 13 until I was 16. I think it was four trials. It was really special, I had three very nice years there. It was tough, but I have really good memories and being there on trial and getting signed is an amazing feeling.”
“I have no regrets. It is a hard decision when you are young. I cannot say it was the right decision, or the wrong decision. It is hard for me to say, but what I experienced in the year after I won the cup with Molde. It was a dream come true.
“The first one or two years were personally pretty good, being 18 or 19 and having these experiences. I had an injury and the tough times came, but this is something you have to deal with. It is hard for me to say I regret it, but of course I try to make a decision and then be fully there with it. Not thinking about what could have been.”