Manchester United’s honorary president Martin Edwards has revealed that the club could have been even more formidable after missing out on Zinedine Zidane, Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne.
Towards the end of Ron Atkinson’s spell at the helm, and throughout the iconic reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils were always in the market for the very best in the business.
They did, however, either pass up or fail to secure the signature of a number of players that could have carried them to even greater heights.
England stars Gascoigne, Lineker and John Barnes were among those to slip the net, while Zidane – who went on to become a World Cup winner and World Player of the Year – was overlooked due to a potential clash with countryman Eric Cantona.
United’s former chairman Edwards told MUTV while promoting his new book Red Glory: "Paul Gascoigne was certainly one [we missed out on].
"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 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.
"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. Alex said that Eric 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, he felt that, if he had brought Zidane in, it may have affected Eric's position, so he stuck with Eric."
United fared admirably without the services of Gascoigne, Zidane and Co, with Ferguson having overseen an unprecedented era of success which delivered 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions League crowns and a Club World Cup success.