The XI that got away

by Sam Peoples

The dust has well and truly settled after a summer of quick early business, rather traditional of United over the years, followed by the tedious protracted saga involving a certain diminutive Inter Milan midfielder – so my mind began to whirr. What players had United missed out on before? Why not do a list? So here is a quick look at some of the players that Sir Alex tried, and failed, to snare over the years (although, considering how successful United have been, things seem to have a funny way of sorting themselves out I’d say)

1. Petr Cech

Sir Alex mentioned this one again recently when talking about the signing of De Gea, expressing regret that he didn’t pursue Cech’s signature. Would this have meant no Van Der Sar? Possibly so, and which one of them was the happier in Moscow on that fateful night! 

2. Paolo Maldini

Not so much got away as more never going to happen – Sir Alex asked Paolo’s father Cesare Maldini about his son’s availability but got short shrift. Unsurprising that they wanted to hold onto him really, considering what he turned out to be like!  

3. Gareth Bale

Sir Alex had his limit for this player and he wasn’t willing to budge – Spurs however were, and the young welsh wide player was theirs. The eye watering fees talked about for Bale following his performances against Maicon of Inter make Spurs’ bit of business look pretty impressive with hindsight.  

4. Glenn Hysen

The first player in this list that chose to join Liverpool instead of United – Gary Pallister was signed in his stead. Bruce/Pallister wasn’t too shoddy a partnership on reflection! 

5. Paul Gascoigne

“Not getting Gazza” – Sir Alex describes that as the biggest regret of his career. It all looked so promising when Gazza gave Sir Alex a verbal agreement that he would join United but whilst on holiday in Malta he found out that Terry Venable’s Spurs had signed the Geordie – apparently swaying his decision by buying Gascoigne’s family a house. One can only wonder how different Gazza’s career and life might have been with the guidance of Sir Alex at that young age. 

6. Harry Kewell

The Australian forward chose to sign for Liverpool with Sir Alex supposedly interested – he never really went on to continue the early promise he’d shown as a youngster at Leeds, injury and poor form affecting his career at Liverpool. 

7. Karim Benzema

Those pesky Madridista’s – not content with their ever burgeoning collection of superstars they’ve resorted to hovering up some of the more exciting youngsters in Europe – United were never going to be able to compete with the resources of Madrid and the lure of the Bernabeu proved too strong for Benzema. Similarly, more recently they’ve been at again, snaring the promising centre back Varane from French club Lens. 

8. Patrick Vieira

You have to wonder whether Sir Alex was doing this just to wind up his old adversary Wenger, but several attempts were made to prise the former Arsenal captain away from the Gunners with the player supposedly being receptive to the idea. The welcome from Roy Keane would’ve been interesting to say the least. 

9. Alan Shearer

Sir Alex rarely goes after a player twice but Shearer was that rare exception – Blackburn winning the Geordie striking legend’s signature in the first instance and Newcastle signing him from Blackburn thanks to the persuasiveness of then manager Kevin Keegan. As Alan Hansen put at the time “the rest of the league might as well pack up and go home if United sign him”. A certain Norwegian goal scoring hero with a rather catchy terrace song helped to ease the pain of that miss (although Dion Dublin was signed after missing out the first time!). 

10. Ronaldinho

Was this ever really going to happen? Ronaldinho himself in interviews during his time at PSG expressed his admiration for Manchester United but it’s difficult to get away from the suggestions that Ronaldino’s brother and agent basically used United’s interest to force Barcelona’s hand – reportedly leading to a €30m bid from the Catalan club for the Brazilian maestro’s services. 

11. Arjen Robben

Despite getting a personal tour of Old Trafford from Sir Alex himself it seemed the lure of the Russian millions at Chelsea was too much for the player to turn down, and PSV considered a €7m offer from United to be derisory – €18m was enough for Chelsea to secure the Dutchman.  



QPR turned down the then not inconsiderable sum of £5m for Kevin Gallen, a player who’s career was sadly curtailed by injury. 

Sheffield Wednesday also resisted Sir Alex’s advances for their star striker David Hirst – similarly his career was badly affected by injury. 

And to round off the sick-notes, Darren Anderton was a player of interest to Sir Alex whilst at Spurs, but again injury held back a player who starred in Euro 96. 



Dishonourable mentions 

Stan Collymore

Frank Clarke the then Forest manager told Sir Alex that Stanley wasn’t for sale which allegedly lead to a fight between Collymore and Roy Keane’s favourite Norweigian player Alfie-Inge Haaland, who chose to wind up Collymore about the failed move on the training pitch. Sir Alex went on to sign Andy “Andrew” Cole instead – not a bad alternative! 

Mick Harford

No really. Sir Alex recently revealed that the state of the pitch in the early 90s at Old Trafford compelled him to consider the option of bypassing the midfield completely and letting Harford outmuscle the opposition centre backs. 

Patrick Kluivert

Dwight Yorke and Any Cole’s famous (and infamous if you read the red tops!) partnership might never have happened but for Kluivert turning down Sir Alex’s overtures – the Dutchman was quoted as saying he would only come to England to play for Arsenal, although it’s thought he was keen on a move until Barcelona came in for him. A largely unremarkable spell at Newcastle followed. 

No doubt others will turn Sir Alex down in the future, but reading through that list it’s clear Sir Alex isn’t one to dwell on rejection. 


Written by @MisterTea75

You may also like