Manchester United had identified Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan as potential transfer targets prior to Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, claims Rene Meulensteen.
With an iconic figure at Old Trafford having kept his retirement plans close to his chest, life continued as normal in the spring of 2013.
That meant the Red Devils coaching staff started to piece together their plans for the following campaign, with possible additions identified early.
Ferguson was, however, to step down as United manager on the back of a 13th Premier League title triumph, David Moyes was appointed as his successor and attention shifted elsewhere in the recruitment market.
That change in direction led the Red Devils away from three star turns in Germany who were all on the books of Borussia Dortmund at the time, with Meulensteen revealing to the Manchester Evening News : “The fact that he was going to retire or finish came to me and a lot of others as a complete bombshell.
“He was as sharp as ever. He was always an early bird, always arriving early at Carrington. I didn't read anything in him where it suggested it would be his last season.
“We had very normal staff meetings regarding pre-season. That year we were going to Australia. Sir Alex even mentioned taking us to one of the best vineyards out there. I was looking forward to that!
“We had possible scouting meetings, possible players we were looking at in terms of trying to build a picture of what we think we need. All that was ongoing.
“We looked at a few German players like Hummels, who went to Bayern Munich. I think we looked at Gundogan and Reus, too. There were a number of players but we never got that specific to really target them.”
Hummels ended up leaving Dortmund for Bayern Munich as a World Cup winner in 2016, while Gundogan made his way to Manchester in the same summer – but linked up with City rather than United.
Reus, meanwhile, remains at Signal Iduna Park, with injury troubles having prevented him from making the expected progress in recent years.