Report: Manchester United abandon talks for Arnautovic after fan backlash
Manchester United walked away from a potential deal for Bologna forward Marko Arnautovic on Tuesday after receiving written complaints from fans over the player's history of alleged racist abuse, The Athletic's Laurie Whitwell reports.
Bologna reportedly rejected United's opening €8-million bid for the 33-year-old but expected them to return with a better offer. Instead, the Red Devils abandoned talks altogether.
A number of United supporters emailed the club as well as chief executive Richard Arnold to express their concerns over the Austrian international's character, according to Whitwell. UEFA handed Arnautovic a one-match ban for insulting an opponent at Euro 2020 but cleared him of discriminatory behavior. Reports at the time suggested he had used an anti-Albanian slur while arguing with North Macedonia's Ezgjan Alioski during Austria's 3-1 group-stage win.
Arnautovic apologized for the "heated words" but emphasized he wasn't racist. Alioski said Arnautovic apologized personally and shook his hand.
"I have friends in almost every country, and I stand for diversity," Arnautovic added. "Everyone who knows me is aware of that."
He was also accused of racially abusing Ibrahim Kargbo, a Black defender playing for Willem II, during an Eredivisie match in 2009. Arnautovic, then 20, was playing for Dutch club Twente.
United manager Erik ten Hag reportedly identified Arnautovic as an affordable attacking reinforcement. Ten Hag coached the player in 2008 while serving as Steve McClaren's assistant at Twente. McClaren is now Ten Hag's assistant at United.
Arnautovic returned to European football last year after spending the previous two seasons in China. He scored 14 goals in 33 Serie A appearances, finishing eighth in the league in scoring.