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Alex Ferguson admits he thought Dele Alli was going to be a ‘top player’

“I don’t know what’s happened there.”

Since stepping away from the intense cauldron of Premier League management in 2013, Alex Ferguson has enjoyed the opportunity to watch games as a fan.

Ferguson is often spotted at Old Trafford where, from an enviable vantage point, he can keep a close eye on the team he managed for the best part of three decades.

And there has been a seismic level of change to the Premier League landscape since Ferguson retired, the most notable event being Liverpool’s return to the summit, something Fergie managed to prevent during his legendary tenure as Manchester United boss.

Alex Ferguson has been a regular spectator at Old Trafford in recent years.

Of course, Liverpool’s success was driven by players who burst onto the scene post-Fergie, with Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk chief among them.

But the player Ferguson really thought was destined for the top? Dele Alli.

After breaking through at MK Dons, Alli quickly became a sensation after joining Spurs in February 2015.

The attacking midfielder flourished under Mauricio Pochettino, scoring 22 goals in his first full season at the club before adding a further 14 in the 2017-18 campaign before helping England reach the World Cup semi-final.

Alex Ferguson speaks about Dele Alli.

However, Alli’s progress has been halted recently. He fell out of favour under Jose Mourinho at Spurs and spent the majority of the 2020-21 season looking on from the sidelines until starting the last four Premier League games under interim boss Ryan Mason.

And Alli’s fall from grace has surprised Ferguson.

“I thought Dele Alli was going to be a top player, I must admit,” he said in a recent interview with Gary Neville for SPORTbible.

“I don’t know what’s happened there.”

Indeed, speaking on the Amazon documentary All or Nothing, Mourinho revealed that Ferguson’s only piece of advice to him when he was United boss was to sign Alli.

“Sir Alex Ferguson gave me only one bit of advice in two and a half years: Buy Dele Alli,” said Mourinho.

“‘That guy, with that mentality, the way he plays, the aggression he has in mind. This guy is the Manchester United player. Buy Dele Alli’.”

Alli has, by his own admission, endured difficult times of late, conceding that the last year has taught him not to take ‘anything for granted’ in an emotional Instagram post.

“It goes without saying this season has been the most difficult in my career so far.

“There have been some incredibly low moments and tough challenges I’ve had to face. But I’m grateful to always have the opportunity to do what I love.

“This season has taught me I can’t take anything for granted. And I’m more determined than ever to come back fitter and stronger.

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“Thanks to the fans for the great support as always and look forward to seeing you all back in the stadiums next season.”

Ferguson also had nice things to say about Alli’s Spurs teammates Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, both of whom have enjoyed better fortunes for the north Londoners in recent times, and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, who is set to depart the club in the summer.

As for Alli, who was unsurprisingly left out of Gareth Southgate’s provisional England squad for the Euros, he is still only 25, and will hope whoever Spurs appoint as Mourinho’s successor will help him breathe new life into his career.

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