Manchester United were desperate to sign Switzerland international Breel Embolo, according to Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel. The 19-year-old was linked with a big-money switch to Old Trafford this summer, before he joined the German club.

Heidel confirmed Embolo had been a target of United boss Jose Mourinho, who is currently in the process of overhauling his squad. "There are a number of reasons why we signed Embolo," Heidel told the official Bundesliga website.

"First and foremost, there are sporting reasons. It's nothing new that he is a great player. There is a reason why Mourinho desperately wanted to sign him for Manchester United. But we also see him as a player the Schalke fans can identify with, a bit like Benedikt Höwedes, Leroy Sané and someone like Ralf Fahrmann."

Heidel said the reported United transfer target is set to become a fan favourite at Schalke. "Embolo had a similar role at Basel, where 80% of the shirts they sold had his name on it," Heidel explained. "He is very open, is always smiling and makes it easy for people to like him."

The Schalke chief explained, too, that United's interest caused the Germans to accelerate the deal. "When we realised there was a possibility that we could miss out on signing him due to other clubs' interest, we had to move fast," Heidel said of United's influence.

"President Clemens Tonnies happily made his plane available. We flew out to Montpellier at 1pm CET and returned five hours later. We had wrapped up the deal in that short period."