Former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards has revealed that he offered Alex Ferguson the chance to sign Zinedine Zidane in 1995, but he rejected the opportunity for fear of upsetting Eric Cantona.
In an interview with MUTV, Edwards opened up on a handful of players who slipped through the United net, as he also revealed that could have signed Gary Lineker before he moved to Everton.
Yet it was the comments about Zidane that made for fascinating reading, as the player who went on to win the World Cup with France and the Champions League with Real Madrid was crossed off the United wanted list by Ferguson.
“When Zidane was at Bordeaux, Les Kershaw, the chief scout, was telling me we should be interested in him and I mentioned it to Alex,” stated Edward.
“Alex said that Eric (Cantona) had also mentioned Zidane to him but Alex felt Zidane played in the same position as Eric.
“Having gone over to France to persuade Eric to re-sign for us, after the Crystal Palace incident (when he kung-fu kicked a fan in the stands), he felt that, if he had brought Zidane in, it may have affected Eric’s position, so he stuck with Eric.”
Edwards also revealed that United could have signed John Barnes before he moved to Liverpool, with the near miss in the deal to sign Paul Gascoigne ahead of his move to Tottenham also chronicled by the ex-Old Trafford chief.
“Paul Gascoigne was certainly one (we missed out on),” he added. “We thought he was coming but he decided to join Tottenham. I think there were certain last-minute inducements involved.
“I’d done the negotiations for Alan Shearer and again, I thought he was coming. But (Blackburn owner) Jack Walker was very adamant he wasn’t coming to Manchester United. It was a case of ‘over my dead body’ but he allowed him to go to Newcastle.
“Gary Lineker, as you know, was going to sign for Everton and his agent Jon Holmes rang me on the day and said: ‘We’re about to go on the train to sign for Everton but his first choice would be Manchester United, if you want him to come.’ I put it to our manager Ron (Atkinson) and he said: ‘I’ve got four strikers already. The last thing we need is another striker.’ So we passed on that one.
“With John Barnes, Graham Taylor rang Alex Ferguson to see if he wanted to take him before he signed for Liverpool. Alex passed on him because it was his first season, he had Jesper Olsen in his squad and he wanted to see whether Jesper would make it.”
The transfer window may have closed more than a month ago but that hasn’t stopped Manchester United lining up players for next season – especially those who are out of contract in the summer.
These are historic times. Just look at the top of the Premier League table, where the two Manchester teams are divided only by the most dizzying of goal differences. It is not unprecedented for a team to have a goal difference of plus 20 or more after seven games but it is extraordinarily rare. It happened four times in the 19th century and three times in 117 years since, Manchester City this season becoming the latest side to achieve the feat .
No England player would admit it but, for all the declarations of pride that come with wearing the Three Lions jersey, and for all the badge-kissing and chest-thumping, so much fear stalks that shirt these days that there must be an element of relief when they are able to vacate it and return to their clubs.