Old Trafford, The Theatre of Dreams, call it what you like, but it has long been a stadium fit to host some of the greatest players in the world. And it has seen its share of great players, and it’s fair to say that it has seen its share of truly awful players.
Without a doubt though, it's long been a place where players have dreamt about playing and have their chance to live out their career there, but what about the players who have had the chance but turned their nose up at the chance?
It’s not often that Sir Alex Ferguson gets snubbed, but there is a host of players who have said thanks, but no thanks to the legendary Scot and Manchester United. So let’s take a look at 10 of the most famous players that have turned down the chance to play for the Red Devils.
Southampton have a habit of breeding future stars, and in 2006-07, Gareth Bale was emerging as a definite star for the future. A host of clubs were after him, most prominently Manchester United, but they just couldn’t get Southampton to accept their bid, refusing to go too high for a player who was still largely unproven.
In the end, Tottenham manged to lure him to White Hart Lane, and United and a host of clubs have been linked with again after a lot of quality performances during the season, the only problem now though, is quotes reaching up to £40 million.
In Fergusons autobiography, he states how keen he was in bringing Kluivert to Old Trafford after World cup 98, and the striker was keen at first but then went cold on the idea when he heard Barcelona was interested. United ended up missing out on him when he did indeed join Barcelona an hour before the transfer window shut, and a week later, United brought in Dwight Yorke, and the team went on to win the treble that season.
I remember in the treble DVD where, in an interview at the beginning of the documentary, Kluivert denies he was ever going Old Trafford, and there was only one club in England for him, Arsenal.
I know, I know, he did eventually make his way to United, but he had the chance a lot earlier.
When Schmeichel decided to leave United in 1999, every goalkeeper in the world seemed to be linked with their No. 1 jersey. It was also the year that Edwin Van Der Sar declared he would be finally be leaving Ajax. Van Der Sar made it clear he wasn’t interest in joining United and decided to join Italian giants Juventus, whilst Bosnich made his way to Old Trafford on a free transfer.
Still made it as a legend at United but just imagine if they had been able to sign him earlier in 1999
Mikel was a young lad playing in Norway in 2005, and he showed signs of developing into a very promising player. Ferguson was desperate to sign the wonder kid and managed to strike up a deal with his club Lyn Oslo with a deal worth £4million. The player appeared in a press conference dressed in a United shirt expressing his delight at signing for United.
This is where the trouble started. Chelsea claimed they had already agreed to a deal with the players agents and that the player was joining them. Mikel was apparently then getting threatened back in Norway and subsequently disappeared, with people stating that he had been kidnapped. He did return in Norway and said that he had been pressured into signing with United and that he wanted to be at Chelsea.
The three clubs latter settled this messy affair, with Chelsea paying Lyn £4 million and had to pay United £12 million to buy his contract.
Six times Ferguson tried to tempt him to Old Trafford, but the club wouldn’t sell, and the player wasn’t interested. Hirst was an up-and-coming English striker who knew where the back of the net was and had just started to break into the England team. In November 1992, United were still chasing their first title in 26 years and were struggling up front for goals so they once again turned to Hirst with a £3 million bid, but once again, it was rejected and instead United went and signed Cantona.
A couple of months later, Hirst damaged his ankle which was the beginning of his injury problems which would plague him; his career never recovered.
In 2008, United proudly announced that Aaron Ramsey was on his way to Old Trafford. The only problem was that he actually wasn’t. The most exciting player coming out of the championship from Cardiff seemed to have his pick where he wanted to carry on his football learning curve. The papers and everyone associated with football seemed to have all their signs pointing towards Old Trafford.
His manager at the time, David Jones, and even his hero Ryan Giggs told him the smarter move would be moving to United—a club he had supported since he was a boy—and they had even wrapped up discussions with Cardiff now they were just expecting Ramsey to say yes and finish the deal.
In the end, he had surprisingly chose Arsenal as the club for him, citing it was the way Wenger had been personal with him and had looked after his family. He was also reportedly unhappy at United’s over arrogance and how they had already presumed that he signed for them. By posting it prematurely on their web site, it had backfired horribly for them.
United came so close to signing a future world player of the year, it was thought of as practically a done deal. In the summer of 2003, David Beckham said an emotional goodbye to his boyhood club and departed to Real Madrid which left a gaping hole on the right side of United’s midfield, so the club looked for a superstar to replace him.
Ronaldinho had shone at the 2002 World Cup, and it was surprising he had stayed at his club, PSG, for a year after it. Manchester United decided to bring him to England.
United had agreed on personal terms with the star but were dragging out the negotiations with the Paris club. In the meantime, Barcelona, spurred on by losing out on Beckham to their rivals, took advantage of these delays and crept in and took the Brazilian to the Nou Camp.
United fans were downbeat and left scratching their heads to just how they had failed to sign him and blamed the then chief executive Peter Kenyon who just a few weeks later left and went on to join Chelsea. After this setback, United signed a young winger who was unheard of to most fans, called Cristiano Ronaldo.
Robben was one of the hottest properties in Dutch football by 2004, and there was a host of clubs after his signature. Robben travelled with his dad to visit the club and Ferguson, and he seemed to be keen to join.
Here is a quote from his father at the time the deal was being tied up “We have taken a look around and have spoken with manager Alex Ferguson, We have a good feeling about it. We had permission to take a look at the club. On Friday and Saturday, we did that. Manager Alex Ferguson showed us the stadium and the training accommodation. Furthermore, we had dinner with him. Before we went to Manchester, we had two questions in mind. We would like to know the environment of the club and how many matches Robben could play. Following talks with Ferguson, this could be 40 matches. Both questions has been answered very positively. It will be PSV or Manchester United. We are thinking about that now”
All seemed set to bring him in and even Robben himself sounded like he wanted to come “It would be fantastic if I could play for Manchester, but at the moment, I just have to wait”
Despite earlier promises that the decision that would be taken would not be driven about money, the moment Chelsea showed an interest, the bid seemed to stall with PSV and Robben both stalling on the money on offer which hadn’t been a problem before.
PSV chairman Harry van Raaij told Manchester United the most that their €7 million offer would buy them was a shirt with Robben's autograph on. Chelsea then offered a whopping £18 million, and he joined them.
The man who had started United’s negotiations? Peter Kenyon. The man who finalized Chelsea’s bid? Peter Kenyon.
In 1988, Paul Gascoigne was the most exciting player to emerge from the British Isles and had just been voted the Young player of the season. United and Tottenham both entered the race to sign the young starlet. Gascoigne was said to have preferred a move to Liverpool, but with no bid forthcoming from them, he made a promise and gave his word to Manchester United and Alex Ferguson that he would be a United player the following season.
Ferguson went on holiday excited about the future prospects of his team, but that all changed when he received a call saying that Paul had signed for Tottenham instead, apparently because Spurs had bought his parents a house. The move greatly upset Ferguson who refused to talk to the player for years.He has since stated in his autobiography that the biggest disappointment in his career was not signing Gazza, and Paul said himself that he made a mistake in not joining.
If he had joined would they have signed both Ince and Keane? Highly unlikely, and we all know how Paul's career ended up after his snub.
Not only rejected the advances of United once in 1992, but when they came back in for him in 1996, he once again turned his nose up at the proposed move.
The first time an offer came about was when he was a youngster at Southampton, banging goals in for fun, and it was inevitable a bigger club would make an offer. So up stepped Manchester United offering a British record to lure him to Old Trafford, but because they were so confident, they didn’t conclude the deal quick enough, and Blackburn Rovers ended up taking him back up North.
“There was interest from Manchester United, but I was told I had to wait three or four weeks for them to get the money together. I felt if they really wanted me then they would come and get me immediately. I had already spoken to Blackburn and told Kenny Dalglish, Ray Harford and Jack Walker that I would give them an answer in three of four days—and my answer was yes.”
In 1996, it was announced that Shearer who had just won the Golden Boot at Euro 96 and was the Premierships record goal scorer, was to be leaving Blackburn, and there seemed only one place for England’s biggest star to go, and that was England’s biggest club.
United agreed to a world record £15 million fee with Blackburn and so had his hometown club Newcastle United too. After extended talks at Old Trafford, he was all set to join until Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan had a last minute meeting with Alan, and he decided to go home to Newcastle. Manchester United had missed out on him again.
In hindsight, Shearer went on to have a fabulous career at Newcastle breaking all their goal-scoring records, but he still couldn’t add any silverware to his one league medal he won at Blackburn. If he had joined United in 1992, it would have been highly unlikely that the club would have signed Cantona, and if in 1996 United had been successful in bringing him in, then it would be highly unlikely that they would have brought in Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, the rest as they say, is history.
I’m sure Ferguson never really got too down about anyone not joining his teams, because where one door closes another opens and some famous names from down the years would not have gotten their chance in the team if all his targets had joined.
But I look at the likes of Gascoignes' career and wonder just how good he could have become under the guidance and influence of Ferguson? How about seeing Shearer terrorising European defences on a regular occurrence? And any fan couldn’t have not got excited about the prospect of Ronaldino playing in the Premiership every week.
The likes of Ramsey and Bale would have been good additions for the squad today; Ramsey could have solved that central midfield puzzle that’s presenting itself at the minute. However, no one is ever bigger than the club, and I always think if a player doesn’t want to join Manchester United then its most certainly their loss.