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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Eden Hazard and 4 more players Manchester United memorably missed out on

The Belgian star could’ve moved to Old Trafford in 2012 but Sir Alex Ferguson signed Shinji Kagawa instead.

Image: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

Eden Hazard

In April 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson was in France to run the rule over Lille playmaker Eden Hazard. Afterwards, speaking to French media, it seemed he had been suitably impressed.

“Hazard is a very good player”, he said. ”

“He has many qualities. He is particularly rapid in the first 10 yards.”

The 21 year-old had been a regular for the club in the previous three campaigns and was a key element in Lille being crowned domestic champions in 2011 – the first time since 1954 they’d managed such a triumph. But it was the following season when he was relentlessly impressive and finished the campaign with 20 league goals. Inevitably, Europe’s finest began to sniff around.

It was a straight battle between United and Chelsea for his signature. Hazard met with Ferguson and Roman Abramovich but there was also the small matter of the fee. The London club were prepared to go as high as £32million. United, at Ferguson’s insistence, were not.

France Soccer Champions League Eden Hazard' sperformances for Lille attracted plenty of attention but Manchester United refused to offer more than Chelsea for his services. Source: Michel Spingler/AP/Press Association Images

Hazard moved to Stamford Bridge and revealed that in spite of having been in advanced talks with United, he felt Chelsea, who had just won the Champions League, was ‘the better project’.

Later in the summer, a bitter Ferguson questioned the amount Chelsea forked out.

There is a borderline in terms of what you would think is a good signing for United. ”I see some values on players, like Hazard for instance. To me it was a lot of money. He’s a good player, but £34m (sic). What we’re finding anyway, the climate for buying these top players – not just the transfer fees, the salaries, agents’ fees – is just getting ridiculous now.”

Having missed out on Hazard, Ferguson bought Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell instead.

Gareth Bale

In 2006, Manchester United were in dire need of a new left-back and plying his trade in the Championship with Southampton at the time was a 17 year-old who was attracting plenty of attention.

Gareth Bale’s performances had already ensured four caps for the senior Wales team by the end of the year and clubs were circling. Arsenal was mooted as a possible destination but United made Southampton an offer in January 2007. It was not to the Saints’ satisfaction.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round - Manchester City v Southampton - The City of Manchester Stadium Source: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

At the time, Ferguson was quite open about chasing Bale but maintained the selling club wanted more money than United were willing to spend.

“Southampton said no to us because they are looking for more money, which they have every right to do. I am not exactly sure what Tottenham have offered but they have offered more and that puts them in pole position.”

The bid we made for Gareth reflected his potential. There were a series of build-ups in it because we have to protect our own club’s assets too. We offered an initial fee with add-ons depending on how many games he plays, international caps and so on.”

“When you are talking about signing young players with potential, you hope your decision-making and your assessment of the player is correct.”

It wasn’t.


In the summer of 2003, mercurial, buck-toothed Brazilian Ronaldinho was all set to leave Paris St-Germain and head for one of two clubs: Barcelona or Manchester United.

The story goes that then-United CEO Peter Kenyon flew to Lyon to hammer out the final few details but Sandro Rosell, a former Nike executive and ally of Ronaldino’s, was there too, in his capacity as advisor to Barcelona’s soon-to-be president Joan Laporta. United won the bidding war – offering 30m euro. The Catalans couldn’t go higher than 27m and the deal was done.

SPAIN SOCCER Source: MANU FERNANDEZ/AP/Press Association Images

A thrilled Ferguson got on a plane bound for the United States, already planning to build his side around the magical Ronaldinho – the perfect replacement for David Beckham.

But when Kenyon found out about Barca’s price limit, he faxed through a contract to PSG for 28m. Insulted, the French club told United the deal was off because they had gone back on their word and Barca had their man.

Upon arriving in North America, Ferguson was told Ronaldinho was moving to Spain and was furious with Kenyon’s mishandling of the situation.

Unsurprisingly, Kenyon left the club just a few months later and joined Chelsea.

Alan Shearer

Ferguson wanted to sign the then-Southampton striker in 1992. Instead, Shearer joined Kenny Dalglish’s newly-promoted Blackburn – the club bankrolled by millionaire chairman Jack Walker – for £3.6m, a record amount.

Ferguson, inevitably, was peeved to have been pipped to the signing of the most-wanted man in English football.

Would Kenny [Dalglish]have signed for Blackburn when he was a player? I know what he would have done if United and Blackburn had both come in for him.”

But Ferguson remained a massive fan of the relentless goalscorer. In 1996, after Blackburn endured a horrible campaign (they had won the championship the season before), it became clear Shearer was set to move again.

Soccer -  Alan Shearer - Newcastle United  - Alan Shearer at his official unveiling at St. James' Park in 1996. Source: Paul Barker/PA Archive/Press Association Images

United tried and failed to land him once more as he headed home and joined Newcastle instead for another record of £15m. It’s hard to know why Shearer turned down the move to Old Trafford – yes, there was the pull of playing for a boyhood club that were competitive for the first time in a while but at the time, United chairman Martin Edwards maintained Blackburn had little interest in selling to their rivals and that probably had more to do with it.

Years later, Shearer revealed how close he had come to playing for United. As well as being impressed with what Ferguson had to say to him in the summer of 1996, he had also looked at houses in the Manchester area.

Paul Gascoigne

Ferguson rarely talks about regrets and why should he, having won so much throughout his managerial career? But he has lamented missing out on Paul Gascoigne on quite a few occasions.

Given the midfielder’s subsequent struggles, Ferguson has always maintained United could have sheltered his fragile personality, especially given the background of some of the players at the time.

Soccer - Barclays League Division One - Tottenham Hotspur v Derby County - White Hart Lane Source: John Stillwell/PA Archive/Press Association Images

“We had Bryan Robson, a Geordie, Steve Bruce, a Geordie, Gary Pallister, from Middlesbrough… we had a structure of players who could have helped him and it could have given him some discipline.”

In 2008, Ferguson spoke in glowing terms about ‘Gazza’ and how close United came to signing him.

“Around 1987, when Newcastle were bobbing above the relegation zone, we played them and my three central midfielders that day were Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Remi Moses. All great footballers and he just tore them apart.

When he nutmegged Moses and patted him on the head, I was out of the dug-out shouting ‘Get that f****** so-and-so’.

“Robbo and Whiteside were chasing him up and down the pitch and they couldn’t get near him.

Source: BeanymanSports/YouTube

“We spoke to him the night before I went on holiday. He says ‘Go and enjoy yourself Mr Ferguson, I’ll be signing for Manchester United’.

“So I went on my holidays but Martin Edwards (then chairman) rang and said ‘I’ve got some bad news – he signed for Tottenham. They bought a house for his mother and father in the north east and that swung it’.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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