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Alex Ferguson turned down chance to replace Roy Keane with his fiercest rival

Alex Ferguson

The mere thought of Patrick Vieira in a Manchester United shirt is bizarre but, apparently, Alex Ferguson had a number of chances to sign the Arsenal legend.

Patrick Vieira will go down as one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever midfielders and as was so often the case, Alex Ferguson wasn’t afraid to look to a rival if it meant strengthening his Manchester United team.

It’s well-documented that Ferguson tried to sign Vieira in 2001 and again in 2003 but the move never came to fruition.

That’s why, in 2005, when Ferguson was told that the then-France international would be available at the end of the season, the Scot didn’t get his hopes up for what would have been an ideal replacement for Roy Keane.

“We were told that Vieira was available at the end of last season,” Ferguson told the Mirror in 2005. “But we’ve been down that road so many times where we’re told he wants to sign for United and then he ends up staying at Arsenal.

Alex Ferguson

“So I dismissed it and then, of course, it became a reality. But whether Arsenal would have sold him to us is another matter. I don’t think they would have.

“In an ideal world we’d like to add another experienced midfield player in the Roy Keane mould to our squad. I do not see anyone out there at the moment and I think Alan Smith can do a great job there for us.”

Vieira ended up moving to Juventus that summer and United have yet to come close to replacing Keane.

Keane, who left Old Trafford for Celtic in 2005, had plenty of history with Vieira and the pair’s infamous tunnel clash is one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

Ferguson’s Alan Smith plan didn’t quite work out as the former Leeds forward has himself stated that it was going to be impossible to replace Keane in United’s midfield.

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