Glenn Hysén: The man who turned down Manchester United twice and became a Liverpool legend

A man who was a vital part of the last class of Redmen to lift the league title, this is the story of Glenn Hysén — a living Liverpool legend.

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Being a legend is about the imprint you leave, not how long you spend at a club. Glenn Hysén is a testament to that. Despite only spending three seasons for Liverpool, the Swede is dearly loved in the Red parts of Merseyside and the world.

Hysén was born in Gothenburg on October 30, 1959. He grew up in a football-playing family as both his grandfather and father had played for IFK Gothenburg, the team he would later become a club legend for and with whom he would win two UEFA Cup titles.

He was part of a generation where the players in the Swedish league were not unfamiliar with having a day job to make ends meet. During his first UEFA Cup win in 1982, under the helm of legendary Swede Sven-Göran Eriksson, the team consisted of tradesmen — Hysén himself an electrician. 

After individual success winning the Guldbollen for best Swedish footballer in 1983 and European success with Gothenburg, Hysén tested his mettle abroad. He moved to PSV Eindhoven in 1983 and stayed for two years until he returned home to Gothenburg in 1985.

His real international adventure as a footballer would begin in 1987 after winning his second UEFA Cup in Sweden. He moved to Fiorentina to join up once again with Eriksson, turning down Manchester United in the process. Hysén would end up turning down Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson twice, as he did it the following summer as well before joining Liverpool.

In 2014 he told Swedish YouTube channel Din Karriär: “I turned Manchester United down twice. Or, one time it was their man who screwed it all up.

“The first time I turned them down was in 1987 after having won the UEFA Cup with IFK. Sir Alex Ferguson and their chairman at the time, Martin Edwards, came to Gothenburg and wanted me to sign for United. But, Sven-Göran Eriksson called me and said ‘don’t sign anything, I want you at Fiorentina’.


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“So, obviously, I said no to United. At that time Serie A was the best league in the world — the best players in the world played there — and I got offered a spot in a team managed by a Swedish coach who I knew. It felt like I had won the jackpot.

“The second time, after my stay with Fiorentina, Ferguson wanted me yet again. So I flew over to Manchester with my financial advisor Sven-Olof Håkansson. We were at United captain Bryan Robson’s house in Hale. Me, Sven-Olof, Sir Alex Ferguson, Martin Edwards, and Martin Smith, their club president at the time. That time it was only the signature missing.

“But at the same time, we were negotiating my deal in Manchester, they had an agent negotiating with Fiorentina. And I don’t know what happened between that agent and Fiorentina to this day, but I suppose he had made them a shambolic offer, so Fiorentina refused to negotiate. So, we flew home and went on vacation. And Ferguson must’ve called me 25 times to make it happen, but it was they who had screwed up. 

“Then Liverpool swooped in. They had been impressed with me during my games against England in the World Cup qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup. I talked to Kenny Dalglish when he, [chief executive] Peter Robinson and [chairman] John Smith came to Gothenburg to see me and arrange the deal. Discussions lasted for 10 minutes and then I signed. Kenny convinced me when I met him as a person I knew I wanted to play for him. 

“So, I told Sir Alex ‘this isn’t happening, I’ve chosen something else’. Sure, United became damn good after that, but at the time I got the offer they weren’t even close to Liverpool. Sir Alex was not happy, to say the least.”

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At this time, Hysén had been voted Sweden’s best footballer twice, won two UEFA Cup titles, three Swedish league titles, was the captain of Sweden’s national team, and one of Europe’s best players. His signing represented a major coup for Liverpool.

He joined Liverpool at the toughest period in the club’s history, less than three months after the tragic Hillsborough disaster where 96 people had lost their lives. The city was in grief and sorrow.

As soon as he landed in Liverpool his new teammates took him to visit the injured in hospitals. What really made an imprint on Hysén, other than how the Liverpool community took care of their own, was Kenny Daglish’s investment to help the affected families.

He told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport last month: “Dalglish was incredible — he met all the patients, spending whole afternoons with the survivors of the massacre. Before starting the season that year Dalglish made a speech saying: ’we must win for these people who risked their lives for us’. Dalglish was extraordinary.

“In times of difficulty, he gave us the right push. I spent three splendid years at Liverpool. Entering the pitch with the anthem of You’ll Never Walk Alone hypes you in an incredible way. You have already won before playing.”

Hysén became an immediate success in Liverpool. He was voted man of the match in his debut in the 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the Charity Shield, while his first goal came shortly after in a 9-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace. He usually jokes about it, saying that he closed the game by putting his side eight ahead.

The Swede formed a central-defensive pairing with legendary Scot Alan Hansen. With this duo, Liverpool conceded only 37 goals throughout the entire 1989-90 campaign — the fewest any team in the league that season. They won the league nine points clear of Aston Villa, while Manchester Untied finished 13th, 30 points behind Liverpool.

During the 1990-91 season, Hysén was made club captain as regular skipper Ronnie Whelan was injury for most of the season. Liverpool finished the league season as runners-up and, sadly, that was more or less the end of Hysén’s Liverpool career.

The following season former Liverpool player Graeme Souness was appointed the successor for Dalglish. He and Hysén didn’t see eye to eye on things and, as a result, the Swede made only five appearances throughout his final season.

Hysén’s love for Liverpool FC has never faded, though. Today, he’s the honorary president of Liverpool’s official Swedish branch and a frequent follower of the team and tunes in to see every game.

After Liverpool’s magical comeback against Barcelona on THAT Anfield night last May, Hysén was interviewed by Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten:

How are you feeling Glenn?

“I’m sitting here answering about 100-150 emails and texts. This is one of the absolute best and coolest things I’ve experienced since I quit playing.”

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Did you believe beforehand that this was possible?

“Yes, I really did. If any team in the world could turn a 3-0 deficit around, it’s f***ing Liverpool at Anfield. I can’t come up with any other team that could. But of course, even I am surprised it ended 4-0.”

Hysén has on many occasions told both Swedish and international media that some of his fondest memories in life come from Liverpool.

In an interview with The Athletic‘s James Pearce in early 2020, he said: “People ask me about the most special memories in my life, and of course I was happy when I became a father, but it’s not the same as winning the title.

“We were fighting for a whole year for that thing. Going on the open-top bus around Liverpool, it’s difficult to explain how good that was. I was so happy.”

Once upon a time, Hysén was asked if he ever regretted anything about his time at Liverpool. His answer was brief and simple.

“That I went there so late in my career.”

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