Former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has revealed how Wayne Rooney almost got away such was his love for Everton as a youngster.
Twice in his teens Rooney was approached by United to join but refused due to what Ferguson claims was a love of the Merseyside club.
In an ITV interview (via the Daily Mail), Ferguson reveals how tough it was to convince Rooney to make the switch to Old Trafford in his younger years.
“Jim Ryan came back from one of our academy games at the 14 years level and he said ‘I’ve seen a player’ and he said the boy is Wayne Rooney and we tried to get him because there’s a window at the end of the season – it’s a one-week window – where we can entice or approach a boy from another club to come join your academy, but it failed,” Ferguson said.
“The boy wanted to stay at Everton – at that time he had a love of the club and he’s an Everton fan.
“When he got to 16 we tried again. We approached him to join as a 16-year-old, but once again he refused.”
Although incredible to think now, Rooney’s devotion to Everton at such a young age could have potentially stopped him making a career move which ultimately made him into a world-renowned attacking talent.
The 29-year-old’s decision to join United has also surely helped in him being on the cusp of breaking Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for England, just one behind the current holder at 48.
It was Rooney’s cracking goal against Arsenal in 2003, however, when tails really started wagging about this young prodigy and it was after that stunning strike that Ferguson really went after Rooney.
“I think everyone saw the highlights when he scored that goal against Arsenal, it confirmed exactly what Jim Ryan had said. This boy was going to be a United player.
“And then he came on as a sub against us and we beat them 4-3 and he missed a sitter in that game. But he came on as 17-year-old lad. After that, I had Walter Smith as my assistant and he said ‘we’ve got to get this kid, we’ve got to get him’, and that started the process of the bid.
“Eventually we got it done in my office after we played Everton. There was Bill Kenwright, Maurice Watkins and David Moyes, obviously, arguing over the deal and we eventually got it done.”
Although the England international almost escaped United’s clutches, his legacy is sure to remain in the memory of United fans for years to come, such was his influence on successful sides throughout Ferguson’s reign.
In 485 games for the club, Rooney has netted an astonishing 233 goals whilst also helping the club to win five Premier Leagues and one Champions League title.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
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