Where would Manchester United be right now if Alex Ferguson had accepted this generous offer from Celtic?
Alex Ferguson was already well on his way to establishing his dominance as British football’s greatest ever manager when Celtic came knocking at his door with an offer to take over at Parkhead.
The revelation comes in a far-ranging interview from Celtic’s principal shareholder, Dermot Desmond, who told The Athletic how he wanted Ferguson to lead Celtic into a new era after Rangers had just won nine consecutive Scottish league titles.
Ferguson, who played as a forward for Rangers for two years, considered the offer but ultimately couldn’t be pulled away from his burning focus to win the Champions League with United.
Desmond revealed: “I had asked Alex Ferguson to be manager of Celtic around 1997 and I offered to pay the money myself, twice the salary he was on at Manchester United. He said he would like to consider it, even though he had a Rangers background.
“He said, ‘I’d like to do it, to follow in the footsteps of Jock Stein,’ but he said his overriding ambition was to win the Champions League with Manchester United.
“In fact, my good friend JP McManus and I were his guests at the (1999) final in Barcelona, where he fulfilled his dream.”
A few years later, Desmond returned to ask for some assistance from Ferguson when Celtic identified Martin O’Neill as the ideal candidate to take the club forward.
Desmond asked Ferguson to work his magic and convince O’Neill to meet with him to discuss the future of Celtic and the rest, as they say, is history.
“In 2000, I went back and asked him if he was to pick his replacement at that time who would it be,” Desmond continued. “He said there were three people: Dave O’Leary, Alan Curbishley and Martin O’Neill. I said the one I’m interested in is Martin O’Neill.
“I had previously asked a prominent broadcaster if Martin would be interested in the job and I got a response in the negative.
“I then asked Alex if he would speak with Martin, to see if he would meet with me, and the response was that he would be very interested in meeting.
“So I met Martin for dinner and we got on very well. I introduced him to Pat and Brian and they also felt he was a remarkable individual, so we hired Martin.”