David Moyes agreed to sign Toni Kroos but deal collapsed as he reveals missed transfers
David Moyes has shed some light on missed opportunities during his time at Manchester United, including that he had personally agreed a deal with Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos to join United in the summer of 2014.
Moyes also says that he pushed so strongly for United to sign Gareth Bale that United offered more money than Real Madrid; that he tried to sign Cesc Fabregas in 2013; and that he was told by Sir Alex Ferguson there was a chance Cristiano Ronaldo would be returning to Old Trafford.
As Moyes prepares to walk up the Old Trafford touchline for the first time since his United dismissal after ten months in April 2014, the Sunderland manager has spoken about some of the signings who got away. Even landing one of the quartet might have altered his time at United. He was sacked ten months into a six-year contract.
Moyes has not blamed anyone at United for this, he is giving context to the circumstances around his premature departure. But Moyes also says United were a club with “great traditions” – using the past tense.
Having travelled to Germany to see Kroos, Moyes, for the first time, says that in January 2014: “Toni Kroos was agreed to come in the summer. I had agreed it with Toni himself and his agent.”
This was six months after Moyes’ appointment and four months before his sacking. Instead Kroos joined Real Madrid that summer and won the Champions League with two of the other players Moyes thought he had chance of signing in the immediate weeks and months after succeeding Ferguson, Bale and Ronaldo.
Speaking at Sunderland’s training ground on Friday afternoon, Moyes says: “When I first went in [to United] my real target was Gareth Bale.
“I felt all along that Gareth Bale was a Manchester United player. I fought right until the last minute. We actually offered a bigger deal than Real Madrid. But Gareth had his mind made up on going to Real Madrid. That was, in my mind, the player I really wanted to bring to Manchester United.”
Again Moyes does not blame anyone, but he has said before that United chief executive David Gill leaving at the same time as Ferguson, to be replaced by Ed Woodward, did not aid his recruitment.
“The other one was Cesc Fabregas,” adds Moyes, “who we thought we would get right up until the last minute.”
Fabregas was at Barcelona in the summer Moyes arrived at Old Trafford. But both Barca and Fabregas were open to offers. Ultimately Fabregas stayed another 12 months before leaving for Chelsea.
Without giving further details, Moyes also says: “I remember when I first met Alex, and he always said there was a chance Ronaldo might come back.
“So that was the level we were targeting. I wasn’t going out to bring in seven, eight players - because we had a squad which had just won the league.
“I wanted to give those players a chance to show what they could do and gradually make changes as I went along, not make wholesale changes.”
Moyes’ tone was reflective rather than angry – “Sometimes you don’t get deals done. Gareth Bale, we were probably behind all along, Real Madrid were well in for it. The Cesc one was disappointing. It was very close. And Toni Kroos came up in January - it was done.”
Did he think his tenure would have been different had one or more of those players been acquired?
“I don’t know. A lot of players come into Manchester United and have not necessarily made the difference. But I think that, given time and having got to this period, I would have hoped I would be working with a successful team now.”
Asked about regrets, whether he was given a raw deal at Old Trafford and if the overall experience bruised him, Moyes replies: “It did, because of the short time.
“But it was a great experience and one I wouldn’t change. The quality of the players and professionalism, you think you know what it’s like at the very top until you go in there at Manchester United, you see what it’s really like.
“The only regrets would be the timescale. Most people looking back at it, and me myself, would say that whoever took over from Sir Alex wouldn’t have had an easy ride, whether it was Jose [Mourinho], Carlo Ancelotti, Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola or David Moyes, it would have been a difficult job for whoever took over.
“I would only say that [raw deal] because I had a long contract.”
Moyes has been back to Old Trafford since his sacking - to attend Wayne Rooney’s testimonial - and he says his wife Pamela received a phone call from Bobby Charlton’s wife Norma inviting her to Monday’s game. Moyes calls that “classy” but his wife will not be going.