Paul Scholes has been speaking about some of the high-profile players Manchester United almost signed during his time with the club, including Ronaldinho.
Scholes has said that Man United missed out on players such as Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Harry Kewell, as well as Ronaldinho.
The former England midfielder revealed that the United squad were under the impression that each footballer was about to arrive at Old Trafford only for them to move elsewhere.
“I always remember two or three who were possibly coming, I remember Harry Kewell was one and you knew what a good player he was,” Scholes said on BBC Radio 5.
“He was brilliant. I think he ended up turning us down and going to Liverpool, which didn’t really bother us that much.
“I think Damien Duff at the time was another one. Arjen Robben, I think he was very close to coming.
“As a midfield player, you look forward to playing with quick players who can run with the ball and score you goals.
However, Scholes said that Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho, once the world’s greatest players and, in 2003, the most coveted player on the planet, is the one that got away for Man United.
“The one that stands out is Ronaldinho. I really thought the manager got him,” the former midfielder said.
“We were away for pre-season, it was as close as announcing him and giving him a number. But I think he ended up changing his mind at the last minute and signing for Barcelona. It’s strange really because on that pre-season tour we were playing against Barcelona.
“We were all excited, ‘Ronaldinho what a player.’ I think he was coming from PSG at the time, and we thought we were all going to get to play with him – he was going to bring something special, almost like what (Eric) Cantona brought to the team.
“Then the next minute, three days later, we’re playing against him and everyone is trying to kick him. We’re trying to boot him because he didn’t sign for us, which was disappointing.
“I’m not bothered. I was lucky enough to play with so many great players, he would have just been another unbelievable player I might have had a chance to play with but it never happened.”
It appears that Alex Ferguson’s team had a lean spell in the transfer market in 2003 and 2004, as these players moved clubs in those windows. Kewell opted for Liverpool instead of Man United in 2004 when he left Leeds United. The Australian winger was part of the Liverpool side that won the Champions League in 2005.
Meanwhile, Duff joined Chelsea from Blackburn Rovers for £17m in 2003, while Robben joined the London club the following year for £12.1m.
The pair became key players for Chelsea as they won the Premier League under Jose Mourinho.
Ronaldinho turned down a transfer to Old Trafford to sign for Barcelona in 2003, a move that saw him win two Spanish league titles and the Champions League.
The Brazilian was also named World Player of the Year in 2006.
However, in the long-run, Man United did not suffer greatly for failing to sign these players, as good as they were. In the summer they missed out on Ronaldinho, United signed Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ferguson rebuilt his team during this period and the club went on to win three consecutive Premier League titles between 2007 and 2009, as well as the Champions League in 2008.