Beckham... into Sheringham... and Shearer has won it!

Discussion in 'Manchester United Forum' started by B Cantona, Sep 6, 2009.

  1. Sep 6, 2009
    #1

    B Cantona Desperate

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    Sacrilege! But perhaps not all that fanciful, had things gone according to script. Despite the allure of Alex Ferguson's United, with nearly two decades of domestic dominance and European glory under his stewardship, signing first choice transfer targets hasn't always gone smoothly. Some extremely gifted and talented players have come tantalising close to signing for the reds, yet the move fail to transpire. It's an odd notion, looking back wondering what might have been - frankly it's difficult to wish for much better during this perch toppling period of our history - but it's certainly a fascinating one.

    John Barnes trotting out at Anfield in a United shirt; Zinedine Zidane sharing midfield duties with our own ginger genius; Arjen Robben keeping Louis Saha amused and in good company on the treatment table... who knows how things might have turned out with a few minor twists of fate. One thing's for sure - it's usually the players in question who end up regretting their missed opportunity, rather than Ferguson and United supporters. The failure to land one man has more than once turned out to be a spectacular blessing in disguise for the club. So, without any further ado, I present what I consider to be the five most significant 'ones that got away' under Sir Alex Ferguson's management.

    Paul Gascoigne, Newcastle United, 1988

    Gazza. Ferguson cites the failure of this coup, to sign the then hottest prospect in English football, as the biggest disappointment of his career. How we could have done with him at the time too. Prospects were relatively bright, having finished 2nd in the table to Liverpool the season previous, a marked improvement on recent years. Reigning English PFA Young Player of the Year, Gascoigne was no longer happy at Newcastle, the team he'd made his name at, and was looking to move on. The story goes Ferguson had convinced the player to sign for us, and had been assured by Gascoigne that he could relax and enjoy his planned Maltese summer holiday, safe in the knowledge the deal to be signed and sealed on his return. Obviously, that never happened. Allegedly enticed by the promise of a brand new house for his parents, Gascoigne signed for Tottenham instead. The rest is (mostly tabloid) history.

    Ferguson has previously stated his belief that under his tutorledge, and with the strong Geordie presence already at the club in the shape of Robson, Bruce and Pallister, Gascoigne's off field exploits could have been reigned in. Arguably the rot had already set in by that point, but for what its worth the player himself agrees and looks back on the missed opportunity with regret. As for United, this is one of the few incidences where failure to land his man worked out badly for Ferguson. United broke their club record acquisition fee to bring back Mark Hughes from Bayern Munich, but the season was a failure, United finishing a disappointing 11th. The next season was even worse, and the knives were out. Fergie survived with FA Cup and Cup Winners Cup success, but it would be five years after that failure to land Gascoigne that United finally captured the Title.

    David Hirst, Sheffield Wednesday, 1992

    Supposedly, capturing Hirst was something of an obsession for Ferguson, trying and failing on more than one occasion to land the Yorkshire born striker. No doubt many of you reading this won't have a clue who the hell I'm talking about. Perhaps not surprising. A handy striker in his day, Hirst was capped three times for his country, alas representing Sheffield Wednesday proved the pinnacle of his footballing career. Trevor Francis, his manager of the time, valued him highly though, and refused to sanction talks with United. In these pre Bosman times, power had yet to swing the way of the player as we see it today, so ultimately the Hirst chase was a hiding to nothing. Instead Ferguson turned to young second division Cambridge United striker Dion Dublin, but an unfortunate early season leg break at Crystal Palace meant United were still lacking up front.

    November. Howard Wilkinson has good taste in full backs, and contacts United as to the availability of Denis Irwin. Not for sale. The phone call ends. United have a strong season, but bottle it late in a repeat of the previous seasons fortunes, and Aston Villa become inaugural Premier League champions... possibly. Thankfully this alternate history never occurred. The phone call didn't end there, an opportunist Ferguson showed interest in taking Leeds forward Eric Cantona to Old Trafford. Wilkinson sanctioned the £1.2million deal, and the Frenchman proved the catalyst to United ending 26 years of hurt. The deal appears almost ludicrous in hindsight, but Wilkinson had his reasons - citing a sour relationship with the mercurial Frenchman, who'd arrived in England with a reputation for being unmanageable. Rumours Eric was shagging fellow striker Lee Chapman's missus, Leslie Ash, are supposedly unfounded.

    Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers, 1996

    Ferguson had first moved to capture Shearer during his Southampton days, but the opportunity to creosote fences in Blackburn was too strong a lure for the Geordie, and he accepted Jack Walkers millions instead. Four years of outstanding personal success later - thrice breaking the 30 goal mark in the Premier League, lifting the title pipping United on the final day of the 94/95 season, and the nearly-glory of Euro 96 - Shearer was back on the market. Ferguson again moved to sign the player, and admits extended talks occurred. Gascoigne may have proved the biggest disappointment for Ferguson, but Shearer was the one he really wanted. All the talk at the time was of how United would become 'invincible' with Shearer in the ranks. Not just from optimistic United supporters either. The best striker in the country joining the best side in the country. It seemed the perfect match.

    A world record £15million bid later, Shearer had returned to his boyhood club. A fairytale perhaps, but a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of United in the Charity Shield on debut set things into early perspective. How did Ferguson react to the snub? A masterstroke. The baby faced assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, joined from Norwegian outfit Molde for a reported £1.5million fee, and his impact was unexpectedly instant. A goal on debut against Blackburn Rovers was followed by 17 further strikes, helping catapult United to Premier League glory for 4th time during the Ferguson's era. The defining moment of this episode of course is Barcelona 1999. Shearer's season was a wash, just 14 league goals, Newcastle finishing 13th in the table. Solksjaer's was a triumph, cleaning up the silverware and immortalising his United legend with a final minute winner against Munich.

    Patrick Kluivert, AC Milan, 1998

    Kluivert was a phenomenal young player. A European Champion by the age of 18, he'd already had his 'Solksjaer moment', scoring a late winner as substitute against AC Milan in the final. But he also had his off field baggage. Driving at twice the speed limit in an uninsured vehicle, Kluivert crashed and killed passenger Martin Putnam, a Dutch theatre director. The player escaped with community service and an 18 month driving ban, and eventually fled his home country on a free transfer Bosman to Milan. The move wasn't a success, and by the summer of '98, he was ready to move on again, with no lack of potential suitors. Ferguson made clear his interest, and a surprisingly public courtship entailed. Even at the time of the muted transfer, Kluivert was facing alleged rape accusations, later quashed due to insufficient evidence. The player admitted sexual relations with the woman in question, but claimed the liaison was consensual.

    "Maybe he doesn't know how big Manchester United is" fumed Ferguson, as Kluivert opted for a move to Barcelona instead, joining Louis Van Gaal's Dutch revolution at the Catalan giants. He wasn't the only angry manager that summer though. "If I'd had a gun I could have shot him" mused Aston Villa's manager John Gregory, on the moment Dwight Yorke informed him of his wish to move to United. Thankfully this isn't America, and Yorke safely arrived at Old Trafford to form an immediate, nigh telepathic understanding with Andy Cole. Come the end of that season, Yorke was smoking his fat Cuban cigar as a treble winner. As for Kluivert, he endured mixed fortunes at Barcelona. Despite a goal every other game record, he won a solitary title during his six year spell there, and he later left to stuff his face and share hard luck stories with Alan Shearer on Tyneside.

    Ronaldinho, PSG, 2003

    Peter Kenyon's finest moment. Too ugly for Madrid, Ronaldinho was the hottest prospect in World football, and his destination looked to be either Barcelona or Manchester. It's reported that United actually struck a deal for the player, outbidding what Barcelona were prepared to offer. Yet when the formal offer was faxed from Old Trafford, it was less than the negotiated price. Francis Graille, the insulted PSG chief, sanctioned the players move to Barcelona instead. Kenyon, reputation sullied, moved on to Chelsea in a lucrative personal deal a few months later. While Ferguson endured a relatively miserable few years as Arsenal and Chelsea took the title, Ronaldinho was a smash at Barca, living up to his potential capturing back to back Liga titles, and achieving Champions League glory.

    Had this article been written in 2006, it may have had a very different outlook on this particular transfer episode. That's because, the same summer, United signed Cristiano Ronaldo. And after three promising seasons developing at the club, he was about to go stratospheric. Ronaldinho's own career was in decline, a reluctance to train and a penchant for the good life saw his on field prowess wane. Ferguson seemingly had lost the short term battle on this occasion, but won the long term war. United win three titles on the trot, and reach back to back Champions League finals; glory in Moscow, misery in Rome. Cristiano leaves for a staggering record breaking transfer of £80million to join the Madrid revolution, and Ferguson sets about building yet another United side capable of challenging for top honours. Missing out on his first choice target Karim Benzema, Ferguson confounds everyone and signs Michael Owen on a free transfer. Perhaps its all just a little bit of history repeating...
  2. Sep 6, 2009
    #2

    redspoony Full Member

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    Good read. Shearer would have scored a shed load for us.

    Oh, and you forgot the player SAF reckons he should have made a bid for.

    Big Mick Harford!
  3. Sep 6, 2009
    #3

    Adzzz Astrophysical Genius - Hard for Grinner

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    Great read!
  4. Sep 6, 2009
    #4

    IhabX7 Full Member

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    Top class post, Brad. I don't like you but you sure can write.
  5. Sep 6, 2009
    #5

    Devil_forever You're only young once, you can be immature f'ever

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    SAF has said that we'd have signed Ronaldo later on, regardless of the Ronaldinho deal. Good read nonetheless.
  6. Sep 6, 2009
    #6

    MikeUpNorth Wobbles like a massive pair of tits

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    Very well written Brad.
  7. Sep 6, 2009
    #7

    Mockney Not the only poster to be named Poster of the Year

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    Good read as always Bradley you blog hog you....Interestingly, regarding the Ronaldinho transfer, I met one of JP Magnier's children (the majority share holder at the time for younguns') in a bar at an Xmas holiday...Around the time of the Birmingham match the season before (where Beckham chipped the keeper from 30yards)

    He told me, very drunkenly, that Beckham was gonna be sold that summer and we where bringing Ronaldinho in as his replacement. This was a good month or so before the 'Boot Kicking Incident' and a good 7 months before any activity on the Transfer front...It's clear we had Ronaldinho all ready to go and something stella went wrong.

    For me it was a combination of Kenyon, Ronaldinho himself thinking twice about the benfits of a strict manager in a cold country and La Porta promising Barca he'd sign Beckham, only to see him go to Real.

    Insignificant as we got Ronnie, but Interesting non the less
  8. Sep 6, 2009
    #8

    kietotheworld Banned

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    I wouldn't say it's insignificant, Ronaldinho was an outstanding player for a number of years and his signing probably wouldn't have affected the signing of Ronaldo.
  9. Sep 6, 2009
    #9

    phelans shorts Full Member

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    but it would have undoubatbly halted ronaldo's introduction to the first team, he would have been ronaldinho's back-up rather than playing as often as he did
  10. Sep 6, 2009
    #10

    Adzzz Astrophysical Genius - Hard for Grinner

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    Ronaldinho on the Left
    Ronaldo on the right
    Rooney through the middle,
    we'd have been alright.
  11. Sep 6, 2009
    #11

    Devil_forever You're only young once, you can be immature f'ever

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    With Ruud playing in front of Rooney. We'd have been pretty near invincible:eek:
  12. Sep 6, 2009
    #12

    phelans shorts Full Member

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    i think you are both forgetting a certain welsh winger who would have played on the left wing, should this have al happened ronaldo would have been a benchwarmer.
  13. Sep 6, 2009
    #13

    Devil_forever You're only young once, you can be immature f'ever

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    Giggs could have played in the middle as a part of a 5 man midfield. Our attack would have been good enough for us to play only 3 at the back:drool::drool:
  14. Sep 6, 2009
    #14

    phelans shorts Full Member

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    a back 3 of Blanc-Ferdinand-Silvestre wouldn't fill me with much confidence to be honest, even with keane in front of them, team with width would rip us to pieces
  15. Sep 6, 2009
    #15

    Twisted_Woody Full Member

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    Nice job Brad:)
  16. Sep 6, 2009
    #16

    Decotron Full Member

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    Dont forget aul Kiddo wanted us to go for Hartson!!!
  17. Sep 6, 2009
    #17

    phelans shorts Full Member

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    i have only just noticed that the title ended with shearer, it gets to the point where that quote just finishes itself in my head
  18. Sep 6, 2009
    #18

    Mockney Not the only poster to be named Poster of the Year

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    Exactly...It's all hear say of course, Shearer would have stopped Cole's signing first time around and may have halted Solksjaer's break through 2nd time around...Hirst would have probably stopped the Cantona transfer and Kluivert would have stopped Yorke, thus preventing Cole-Yorke & The Treble..It all worked out for the best though....Probably
  19. Sep 6, 2009
    #19

    Mockney Not the only poster to be named Poster of the Year

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    It's natural mate...I often finish myself off in my head
  20. Sep 6, 2009
    #20

    Adzzz Astrophysical Genius - Hard for Grinner

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    Err...Uhm....:nervous:
  21. Sep 6, 2009
    #21

    Raven Blade Dull

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    Good read that was.

    There will always be great players that we miss out on but an alternative always arises sooner or later. Thats the beauty of football being a global game. Special talents can emerge from any corner of the globe. We havent fared too badly despite missing out on them.
  22. Sep 6, 2009
    #22

    B Cantona Desperate

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    Thanks all, hope you enjoyed that and again it brought back some memories

    I'm not sure on the etiquette, pretty sure I should be referring to him as Sir Ferguson throughout all that!
  23. Sep 6, 2009
    #23

    golden_blunder mijn naam is Golden Blunder en ik hou van team LVG

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    Good read

    I was a big fan of David Hirst. The lad had it all really before his injury.

    Does he still have the registered fastest goal (as in speed of the shot) in English footy?
  24. Sep 6, 2009
    #24

    RonaldoVII Full Member

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    :lol::drool:
  25. Sep 6, 2009
    #25

    kietotheworld Banned

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    So Ronaldo's development might have been put back a couple of years, having Ronaldinho would compensate for that.
  26. Sep 6, 2009
    #26

    Interval Level

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    Batistuta. He would have been feckin phenomenol
  27. Sep 6, 2009
    #27

    Ole'sbodyguard Full Member

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    Good post

    Got to query one thing with the Shearer transfer though. Ole was not signed as an alternative to Shearer, he was someone we would have signed regardless of what happened with that particular transfer. Cole was the player who ultimately benefited hugely from Shearer going to Newcastle as the rumour at the time was that he was being used as the makeweight with Blackburn in the deal and if it had gone through it would have been him who looked surplus to requirements as 96 was long before you had 7m former record transfers as subs.

    The way things worked out was Cole was suffering from fitness problems early in the season anyway and then broke his leg against Liverpool in the reserves when Ruddock took him out about three weeks into the new season. This is was what gave Ole his run as he was in competition with Cruyff and Scholes for a starting spot with Cantona and took his opportunity as soon as it was presented to him due to his form in the reserves.

    Hirst was an interesting one as he had became one of the top English strikers in the league under Francis(who looked a very good young manager at this point finishing 3rd with Wednesday and then going onto the double cup final defeats) and he was a player alot of United fans wanted. In hindsight, a more savvy manager than Francis would have accepted the bids we made after Dublin broke his leg, rumoured to have gone as high as £4m, higher than Shearer went to Blackburn for and higher than what we would go on to pay for Keane. Lineker had retired and Hirst was behind Shearer(the real heir apparent) and Wright in the international reckoning but he was a twenty league goal a season striker then and Wednesday had Bright and Warhurst who were doing the business when he was injured. If we had signed Hirst I cannot see how we would every have signed Cantona and things could have panned out much differently.
  28. Sep 6, 2009
    #28

    GDH Full Member

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    Good read that.

    I think I'm right in remembering Kluivert admitting later on that for him there was only one team in England (Arsenal) at the time? Odd how only 10 years ago a top team was considered solely on the previous seasons form like that. These days Liverpool and Arsenal are still huge draws despite not winning titles in years.

    On the Ronaldo/Ronaldinho buisness, would we really have bought Ronnie in that season alongside Ronaldinho? Would've been a big transfer spend for the summer with (I'd assume) around £25mil on top of the £12.5 for Ronaldo. And even if we signed him that summer, what with interest increasing, I wouldn't have been all too surprised to see him loaned back to Sporting.
  29. Sep 6, 2009
    #29

    kietotheworld Banned

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    That was the summer we sold Beckham and Veron. Our net spend would have been fairly low.
  30. Sep 6, 2009
    #30

    GDH Full Member

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    Ah of course, fair enough. I always seem to get muddled up on the specifics during those years for some reason. I think it's when I discovered alcohol...
  31. Sep 6, 2009
    #31

    Successful Owes the Caf £25 (With interests)

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    Benzema and Ribery. The list will go on but SAF always comes out on top regardles of who we don't sign. Ronaldo and Ronaldinho on the wings? I'd like to see what kind of fullbacks would be needed to cover up for that :nervous:
  32. Sep 6, 2009
    #32

    Nem 7 Full Member

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    Very well written.
  33. Sep 6, 2009
    #33

    Alex Banned

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    Good read Brad
  34. Sep 6, 2009
    #34

    CLK_FPC Fists of Fury

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    If you wrote that I flippin commend you to the highest level. Was truely a great read.
  35. Sep 6, 2009
    #35

    Red Indian Chief Torn Rubber Thus says Kemo

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    I'd add Enrique, Vieira & Rivaldo to the list.
  36. Sep 6, 2009
    #36

    datura Full Member

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    Hirst was an excellent player. He reminded me a little of Hughes in that he rarely scored average goals.
  37. Sep 6, 2009
    #37

    Bloxy Why does it always rain on me?

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    you also forgot to mention jon obi mikel.
  38. Sep 6, 2009
    #38

    Red Indian Chief Torn Rubber Thus says Kemo

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    Yea.
  39. Sep 6, 2009
    #39

    kf Full Member

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    Nice one Brad. Let's hope the signing of the Scouse/Welsh dwarf does indeed turn out to be a fortunate one. He's still a Scouse bastard though.
  40. Sep 6, 2009
    #40

    Red Indian Chief Torn Rubber Thus says Kemo

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    Great work Brad. & Spot on with the point you are making.

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