Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson replacement plan failed: ‘My number one choice’

Manchester United sack Ole Gunnar after Watford defeat

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Times are changing, again, at Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday after a series of embarrassing results — a 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool last month, a 2-0 “humiliation” at the hands of bitter rivals Manchester City two weeks ago, and a 4-1 thumping at Watford. A club statement confirmed Michael Carrick will take charge while the search begins for an interim manager. However, ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly interested in the job, and has never made any secret of his desire to return to the English game.

The PSG boss’ family remain in London while he lives in a Parisien hotel.

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Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure eight years ago, the Red Devils have spent a staggering £38million sacking failed bosses.

David Moyes walked away with £7million in his pocket, Louis Van Gaal with £8.4million, and Jose Mourinho with a gargantuan £15million.

Solskjaer leaves with a £7.5million payout, having only signed a new three-year deal in the summer.

Ferguson defined stability in his 27 years at Old Trafford, something the Red Devils have desperately searched for since then.

Yet, things might have been very, very different.

The club’s former chairman from 1980 until 2002, Martin Edwards, released his autobiography ‘Red Glory: Manchester United and Me’ in 2017.

Speaking to GQ prior to the book’s release, he revealed Ferguson dropped a bombshell to club chiefs in the 2000/01 season.

He was planning to step down.

Mr Edwards told GQ: “I have to say that his decision came as both a surprise and a shock to all of us.

“Once we realised that he was very serious about it and that his mind was made up, there were lots of discussions at board level about a possible replacement.

“Our first choice was Arsene Wenger. Since joining Arsenal in 1996, Wenger had been pretty successful, especially in his first full season in charge when he won the double.

“And while it’s true to say that he has suffered hard times since, at the time we all thought he was the best candidate to replace Alex.

“Certainly he was my number one choice.”

Wenger did indeed show interest, and met with Mr Edwards and CEO Peter Kenyon “a couple of times”.

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Mr Edwards said: “For a while we thought there was a possibility of him joining us.

“But I think Wenger felt a loyalty towards David Dein. He was very close to David, and that was the reason he gave us in the end for turning down United.”

Ultimately, Wenger stayed at Arsenal, which proved the right decision.

Just three years later his team went unbeaten for an entire season, a record yet to be matched.

United turned their attention to Sven Goran Eriksson. Mr Edwards said the Swede was ready to be named United boss when Ferguson changed his mind.

Ferguson’s wife convinced him to stay on Christmas Day in 2001.

The decision was publicised six weeks later.

Interestingly, Mr Edwards said Ferguson was the “best signing I ever made on the football side”.

He said: “I was with him for 17 years and we won 17 major trophies, yet the first one took four years and we waited seven years for the league title.

“Can you imagine any big club waiting seven years now? Look at the way Manchester City and Chelsea go through managers.”

Ferguson stayed in charge at Old Trafford until the end of the 2012/13 season, having won the Premier League an incredible 13 times.

Since his retirement eight years ago, United have sacked four managers — with Solskjaer the only one not to win a trophy, if Moyes’ Community Shield victory is included.

Of the four, Solskjaer boasted the second highest win percentage, bettered only by Mourinho.

He won 91 of his 168 games in charge, with a 54.17 percent win record. Mourinho’s was 58.33 percent.

The search continues for a new boss, with Pochettino, Zinedine Zidane and Brendan Rodgers among the early frontrunners.

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