Top 10 Players Man United Missed Out On
Pedro is the latest player to snub Manchester United this summer, after the likes of Dani Alves and Sergio Ramos decided to sign new contracts at their current clubs rather than move to Old Trafford.
It’s not a new phenomenon at United, even during Sir Alex Ferguson’s glittering reign. Here’s some other players that they missed out on, in some cases fortunately so.
Ferguson admitted that United missed out on Bale’s signature in 2007 when the Welshman signed for Spurs instead. A left-back at the time, Bale has gone on to become one of the world’s most impressive players in the past few seasons.
United lodged a last minute bid for Bale before his move to Real Madrid two years ago, but the player had his sights set on La Liga.
Sometimes missing out on the world’s top player can have fortuitous results. Ferguson jettisoned David Beckham to Madrid in 2003 and had earmarked Ronaldinho as a marquee replacement. United agreed a fee of £20 million with the Brazilian’s club, Paris Saint Germain, but revised their offer downwards when they heard that Barcelona had had an £18 million bid accepted.
PSG were incensed and pushed through a deal with the Catalans. Sir Alex was furious at Peter Kenyon’s meddling in the transfer but turned to an unknown 18-year-old Portugese winger as an alternative. His name was Cristiano Ronaldo.
Paul Gascoigne is the player Sir Alex Ferguson claims he most regrets missing out on – for personal as well as footballing reasons. Gazza himself has often wondered how his life may have been different had he chosen Old Trafford instead of Spurs in the summer of 1988.
One can only speculate how Gazza’s career would have fared under Ferguson. However, this was at a time when the Scottish boss was ridding the club of a latent drinking culture and would bring about a period of sustained success to the trophy-starved club.
Gascoigne’s career never lived up to its early promise and despite some successes at Spurs, Lazio, Rangers and Middlesborough, it’s fascinating to speculate how the troubled midfielder’s footballing and personal life may have differed under Ferguson’s tutelage.
In the early 1990s, Ferguson had two strikers in mind who could transform the club into a championship-winning side – Southampton’s Alan Shearer and, even more keenly, Sheffield Wednesday’s David Hirst. United were rebuffed on a number of occasions for the latter until an injury to Dion Dublin lead to Ferguson making another attempt to sign Hirst.
Wednesday’s boss Trevor Francis refused to countenance a move leaving the United boss frustrated, until a phone call from Leeds United chief executive Bill Fotherby transformed his career.
Fotherby had rung to make a bid for United left-back Denis Irwin which chairman Martin Edwards quickly rejected. However, as the two club chairmen made friendly small-talk, Ferguson pushed a scribbled note in Edwards’ face. “Ask him about Eric Cantona” it read. The rest is history. Meanwhile, within weeks Hirst picked up an injury which blighted the remainder of his career.
Arjen Robben may have been linked again with the club following Louis van Gaal’s appointment but back in 2004 the Dutchman was also hot property. Ferguson dined with Robben and his father and following a tour of Old Trafford was confident the winger’s signature was all but secure for £5 million.
However, former United Chief Executive Peter Kenyon had moved to Chelsea and gazumped Ferguson with a £12 million bid. Robben went on to lead Chelsea to a consecutive league titles, adding further to Ferguson’s frustration.
When Peter Schmeichel left Old Trafford in 1999, he also left big gloves to fill. It wasn’t until Edwin van der Saar’s arrival in 2005 that Ferguson was satisfied that he’d secured an adequate replacement. In that time a motley crew of Mark Bosnich, Raimond van der Gouw, Fabien Barthez, Roy Carroll, Tim Howard and the much maligned Massimo Taibi were all unsuccessful at tying down the goalkeeper’s berth at Old Trafford.
It could all have been so different had Ferguson went with his gut instinct when scouting a 19-year-old goalkeeping prodigy at Rennes. However, the United boss felt Petr Cech was too young to adequately replace Schmeichel – a decision he regrets to this day. In fact, his mistake led him to overlook any age concerns when signing a teenage David de Gea from Spain to replace van der Saar.
Mikel was announced as a Manchester United player in April 2005 having agreed personal terms for his transfer from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo. He wore a United jersey with number 21 on the back at the press conference heralding his arrival. And then he disappeared.
It subsequently transpired the young Nigerian wonderkid had been “kidnapped” by Chelsea. The Blues claimed that the midfielder had been “forced” to sign for United. And presumably forced to smile while wearing a United shirt as well. A full year later, Chelsea finally secured his signature but had to shell out £12 million to United and a further £4 million to the Norwegian club. Ferguson called the whole saga “disgusting” and felt it warranted transfer sanctions for the London club.
Essien had a one-week trial at United while he was a youngster at French club Bastia. The Ghanaian midfielder grew up idolising Roy Keane and only work permit problems stopped him signing for the team he supported as a boy in 2000.
However, other reports claim Ferguson rejected Essien twice – for being too small. The United boss has often been criticised for never really adequately replacing Keane – Essien would have been the ideal contender for that role.
In January 1995 Ferguson began a serious search for a striker to replace Mark Hughes. After initial efforts to sign Andy Cole were discouraged by Newcastle United boss Kevin Keegan, United turned their attention to BoyleSports columnist Stan Collymore. Sir Alex put a big offer together and rang Nottingham Forest to put it to manager Frank Clark.
However, Clark had gone home with flu and did not return his call. Frustrated, Ferguson returned to Keegan who reluctantly agreed to part with Cole for £6 million and Keith Gillespie. Collymore went on to sign for Liverpool for a then British record fee of £8.5 million six months later. He was to score 26 goals in 61 appearances during two seasons with club. Meanwhile, Cole would go on to form an unstoppable partnership with Dwight Yorke at Old Trafford, firing the club to an unprecedented Treble in 1999.
A man so boring I honestly left him until last to write about. However, as a footballer he was a goalscoring machine and was also a rare player to turn down Sir Alex Ferguson on more than one occasion. In 1992 Southampton had assured Ferguson that he would be kept in the loop about Shearer’s intentions regarding a possible move that summer.
Ferguson was, therefore, furious to read that the young striker had been given permission to talk to moneybags Blackburn Rovers. He immediately called Shearer who he remembers as quite surly and who asked almost immediately “why haven’t you been interested in me before now?”. United missed out on him that time around but were to display their interest again four years later as the striker prepared to leave Ewood Park. They lost the battle for his signature yet again though, this time to a then record £15 million bid by Newcastle United.