“I think he was a marvellous player.”
Throughout Sir Alex Ferguson’s career, he had plenty of near-misses in terms of transfer targets but the one that most disappointed him was Manchester United’s failure to sign Paul Gascoigne.
After impressing for Newcastle United in the mid-1980s, Gascoigne found himself the subject of interest for a number of clubs and Ferguson was desperate to bring him to Old Trafford.
“Paul Gascoigne, without question,” Fergie answered when asked to name which player he would have loved to manage.
Alex Ferguson on Paul Gascoigne
“I think he was the best English player since Bobby Charlton. I thought he was a fantastic player.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get him and I think, looking back now, he made a big mistake. He recognised it himself years later.
“But we had Geordies in the camp. We had Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, even Gary Pallister from Middlesbrough. We had people there who would have taken care of him, particularly Bryan Robson who was fantastic with players, as you know.
“Instead, he goes to an island in London and you’re easily swallowed up there as a young lad. I think that was a big mistake by him.
“I think he was a marvellous player. I loved his strength.”
Ferguson recalled how he was blown away by Gascoigne’s performance against United at St James’ Park in April 1987.
Ferguson left Newcastle with instructions for then-United chairman Martin Edwards to make the signing of Gascoigne a priority but it wasn’t to be.
“We played Newcastle up there, it was Easter Monday I think, and he had just come back from injury,” Ferguson continued.
“As soon as he came back, they started winning games. We went there and I played three in the middle of the pitch – Whiteside, Robson and Remi Moses – and he destroyed them.
“He nutmegged Moses right in front of the dugout and patted him on the head.
“He was unbelievable and I said to Martin Edwards coming back on the bus: ‘Sign this boy. Get on the phone to him on Monday.’
“And by that time, he had already done a deal with Tottenham, which was really unfortunate.
“That was a disappointment because he had agreed to sign and then Tottenham changed his mind by buying his mother and father a house. Martin Edwards was not that type!”