Former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards has revealed that the club came close to securing the signatures of Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker.
Edwards has recently shed light on a series of revelations of what happened behind the scenes at Old Trafford, noting that Man United were close to making Arsene Wenger manager and later claiming that Eric Cantona prevented him from signing Zinedine Zidane.
And the 72-year-old, speaking earlier this week, named three other players who were on the verge of joining United back in the 90s.
“Obviously people talk about Gascoigne,” he said. “We nearly had him, we thought we got him and in the end he went to Tottenham.
Alan Shearer was close, I done the deal with Stevens his agent. He told Alex (Ferguson) he wanted to come. I think the problem there was Jack Walker, Jack Walker didn’t want him to come to United. He was happy for him to go to Newcastle, yeah. Jack Walker was almost ‘over my dead body’ so he didn’t come.
“We had the opportunity to get Gary Lineker before he went to Everton.”
The most striking thing about what Martins says here is not that United came close to signing three of the most talented footballers of their generation, but indeed the apparent regularity of these botched moves – the notion that almost signing Shearer is just another day at the office.
For us, the consumers, we are obsessed with the subjunctive: what if, for example, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had joined Arsenal, or if John Obi-Mikel came to United? In fact, there is an entire franchise that plays on this deep-rooted tendency amongst supporters to imagine particular transfers: Football Manager – where you can do it yourself.
But at board level, you sense that so much is defined by these ‘maybe’ moments, somewhat mirroring life on the pitch to a degree.