Alex Ferguson on the transfer target he was ‘angry’ about missing out on

Alex Ferguson

“I was angry at that, I really was angry at that.”

During his time as Manchester United boss, Alex Ferguson often struck gold in the transfer market.

Among the Scot’s recruitment masterstrokes were signing Eric Cantona from Leeds United in 1992 and spending £12.6m to bring an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford in 2003.

Ferguson also strengthened both ends of his team brilliantly ahead of the club’s Treble-winning campaign, acquiring the services of centre-back Jaap Stam and striker Dwight Yorke, both of whom played key roles in United’s greatest-ever season.

Of course, Ferguson didn’t always have it his own way in the transfer market. For example, he famously missed out on signing Ronaldinho when the Brazilian chose Barcelona over Manchester when he left Paris Saint-Germain in 2003.

The United boss also twice failed to lure Alan Shearer to Old Trafford with the striker opting to join Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United in 1992 and 1996 respectively.

Going back even further, though, Ferguson missed out on one of his early transfer targets at the United helm.

In 1987, Ferguson and United chairman Martin Edwards decided to pursue Newcastle’s Peter Beardsley, who at the time was one of the best players in England having been named in the 1986/87 PFA Team of the Year.

Peter Beardsley.

However, United were priced out of the move when Newcastle boss Willie McFaul said the Magpies would only sell Beardsley for £3m.

However, in July of that year, Beardsley joined Liverpool for £1.9m and went on to help the Reds win two league titles and an FA Cup before moving to Merseyside rivals Everton in 1991.

Beardsley spent the 1982/83 season at United but managed only one League Cup appearance before moving back to Vancouver Whitecaps.

Speaking in the 1995 documentary The Official Alex Ferguson Story, Ferguson admitted he had been left ‘really angry’ by Newcastle selling Beardsley to Liverpool for well below the price they quoted to United.

“At the end of that first season, I said to the chairman, ‘I think you need eight, nine players, really’,” he said.

“And he says, ‘bloody hell, I thought we’d maybe buy about three players’ and I went along with that.

“First of all, we tried to get Peter Beardsley and they [Newcastle] wanted £3m at the time.

“I always remember the manager saying ‘no, it’s £3m’. Then about three weeks later, they sold him to Liverpool for £1.9m.

“I was angry at that, I really was angry at that.”

Ferguson also misses out on John Barnes.

Ferguson also spoke of how he made a ‘mistake’ by not signing John Barnes as he had ‘committed to a long contract’ with Danish winger Jesper Olsen, who spent four years at United before leaving in 1988.

The Scot also recalled missing out on Beardsley and Barnes in his first autobiography, Managing My Life.

“When I turned my attention to Peter Beardsley, who was doing great things at Newcastle United, I was met with a distinctly frosty reception from their manager, Willie McFaul,” wrote Ferguson.

“He said there was no way Beardsley would be sold to us even if we offered £3m.

“The next week the little forward went to Liverpool for £1.9m. Can I be blamed for feeling bemused and disappointed?”

And during his book tour for his 2013 autobiography, Ferguson revealed that he failed with a second attempt in 1992 to sign Beardsley, who was at Everton.

However, Ferguson’s attention quickly turned to Leeds United’s Eric Cantona, who eventually joined United for £1m in one of the most significant transfers in English football history.

Paul Scholes speaks about the four star players he thought were about to join Man United

“Dion Dublin broke his leg against Palace,” Ferguson said via the Daily Mail.

“So we started scouring about trying to get someone in.

“Peter Beardsley wasn’t really playing for Everton at the time so I went to Martin Edwards’ office and said, ‘Why don’t we try to sign Peter Beardsley?’.

“When I was in there the phone went, it was Bill Fotherby from Leeds asking if we’d sell Dennis Irwin.

“During the call, I wrote Cantona’s name on his pad. They said they would come back to us in half an hour. Half an hour to discuss a player like Cantona? Something like that should have taken five days.

“I knew there was something up and they came back to us and said they’d sell him for £1million. We signed him the next day.”

READ NEXT – Alex Ferguson explains why he rejected the chance to sign Ronaldo for Man United.

(Originally published on March 2, 2021).

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