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19th Aug 2015

Never mind Pedro – here are 5 more top players Man United nearly signed

Simon Lloyd

Watching on as Chelsea muscle in on Barca’s Pedro, Manchester United fans would be forgiven for feeling a strong sense of déjà vu.

The disappointment of seeing their club miss out on a big-name signing is something their supporters know all too well. Through the years, they’ve come close to completing deals for an array of world-class players, only to fail at the final hurdle.

Let’s take a look at a few of the ones that got away…


In the wake of David Beckham’s move to Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson was keen to bring in the Brazilian from Paris Saint-Germain. After initially looking like the player would sign for United, the move broke down and Ronaldinho switched to Barcelona.

Whilst United experienced four years without a title, Ronaldinho was the catalyst for a golden era that Barca still appear to be enjoying.

Barcelona v Cadiz

Alan Shearer

One of the finest English goalscorers of all time, Shearer eluded Sir Alex Ferguson on two occasions. First choosing Blackburn over United when moving from Southampton in 1992, and then again in 1996. After discussing a move with the United boss, Shearer opted to make the switch to his boyhood club Newcastle United.

Although Shearer’s rejection didn’t subdue United’s domestic dominance, his presence might have meant that they didn’t have to wait until 1999 to regain the European Cup.


Arjen Robben

As a youngster at PSV Eindhoven, Robben impressed United enough to invite him over to Manchester. Despite being given a tour of Old Trafford and United’s training complex, Chelsea – newly backed by Roman Abramovic – persuaded the Dutchman to move to London.

Years later, after moving on to Real Madrid, many were surprised that United didn’t try and include Robben as a makeweight in the Cristiano Ronaldo deal. He ended up at Bayern Munich, where he established himself as a key player.

Netherlands v Costa Rica: Quarter Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Paul Gascoigne

It’s one of English football’s most well documented ‘what-ifs’. After a chat with the United boss, Gazza gave his assurances that he would be signing for Manchester United. But after Tottenham manager Terry Venables intervened, Gascoigne changed his mind and opted for a move to the capital.

Years later, Sir Alex described this as his biggest disappointment in the transfer market.

Paul Gascoigne of Tottenham Hotspur

Gareth Bale

When he was at Southampton, United entered into talks over Gareth Bale, seeing him as an ideal fit for Ryan Giggs’ left-wing berth. But after refusing to pay what they deemed an excessive amount for the Welshman, Bale ended up at Tottenham.

United’s interest resurfaced in 2013, but quickly disappeared again when it became apparent that Bale fancied a move to Real Madrid.

Real Madrid CF v FC Basel 1893 - UEFA Champions League