Ferguson had initially announced that he was ready to end his career in management at the completion of the 2001/02 season although the former Aberdeen boss performed a remarkable U-turn and remains in charge at Old Trafford to this day.
Former Barcelona manager Van Gaal has something of an impressive CV having achieved success at the highest level with both Ajax and Spanish giants Barca.
The Dutchman also had a stint with the Netherlands' national side and it was around that time that Van Gaal admits that United's former chief executive Peter Kenyon contacted him about succeeding Sir Alex.
"It was before the World Cup of 2002," the 58-year-old said, as quoted by skysports.com.
"I was in contact with Manchester United through Peter Kenyon.
"It was said to me that Alex Ferguson was going to retire.
"The moment he'd go, I'd succeed him. But in the end Ferguson didn't want to quit."
Stephen Darwin, Goal.com UK