Things might have panned out differently if Sir Alex Ferguson had got his way prior to stepping down as Manchester United boss in 2013.
Since the legendary manager’s retirement, United have endured a long slump away from England and Europe’s elite but that may have not been so severe if Ferguson’s bold plans had come to light.
Patrice Evra revealed this week that Fergsuon attempted to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo and snap up Gareth Bale in 2013 in a bid to build a Champions League-winning side.
Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as Man United boss after winning the Premier League in 2013
But things could have turned out very different if he managed to re-sign Cristiano Ronaldo
Ferguson also wanted to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham before he moved to Real Madrid
However, after his ambitious ideas failed to materialise, Ferguson decided to step down just two weeks later – despite originally telling French left-back Evra that he had no plans to retire.
Speaking about his former boss on the latest UTD Podcast episode, Evra said: ‘Two weeks before his retirement, I remember there was a lot of media saying Ferguson will maybe retire next year, and he said to me, “Patrice, I will never retire. I will be here another 10 years”.
‘He then said: “My target is I’m 99 per cent sure we will have Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. I just need these two players to win the Champions League again. Ninety-nine per cent”.
‘And to be fair, when I speak with Cristiano, I ask him and he said yes to the boss, and was coming to join United. He told me this.’
At the conclusion of the 2012-13 campaign, Ferguson would call an end to his remarkable 27-year reign at Old Trafford after winning the Premier League but failing to get the deals over the line.
Things certainly haven’t been the same since his emotional farewell.
David Moyes, who would soon be known as the ‘Chosen One’, was entrusted with the high-pressure job at Old Trafford, but his United career failed to take off – just like many managers after they succeed a legend.
But just how would United have looked if Ferguson stayed on for another season if he had managed to make his marquee signings?
Evra, who had eight years at United, opened up on Ferguson’s plans for the Red Devils
Robin van Persie could have lined up alongside Ronaldo and Bale up front
Ferguson and United had the world’s best goalkeeper on their hands in David de Gea, but their backline may have been the one area that would have let the side down in their quest for European glory.
Young Brazilian Rafael would have got the nod at right back while the experienced Evra would have kept his place on the left side of defence.
In the middle, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones would partner each other as the formidable duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic didn’t have long left at the top – the former was being phased out while the latter was starting to pick up injuries. Those rock-solid defenders would be a huge miss.
A tasty midfield of Michael Carrick – providing the axis in the centre of the pitch – with Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa either side would have offered the Red Devils a huge threat going forward.
United’s all-time top goalscorer Rooney would likely have featured in a deeper role than he was used to, considering he had been tried there before by Ferguson and with the options that he craved up top.
And up front is where United really could have put Europe’s top teams to the sword. Robin van Persie, who scored 26 goals during their 2012-13 Premier League-winning campaign, would have led the line. Bale on the left, Ronaldo on the right, it would have been a dream team in attack.
David Moyes succeeded Ferguson but his spell ended in disaster at the Theatre of Dreams
United slumped to seventh place in the Premier League the season after Ferguson departed
The big question on everyone’s lips though, would this team have been good enough to win the greatest club prize of all and maintainin their dominance in England?
With a front three of that calibre, United arguably would have had the greatest attack in world football at the time. Goals certainly wouldn’t be in short supply if Ferguson’s dreams came true, especially with that creative midfield behind them.
However, it’s in defence where they may have come undone. It would have been an extremely difficult task to keep the game’s best marksmen at bay with a relatively inexperienced rearguard.
After winning the Premier League at a canter by 11 points ahead of neighbours Manchester City in 2013, Ferguson would have been desperate to keep United at the top.
But after Ronaldo ended up staying on at Real Madrid, while Bale would eventually sign for the Spanish giants from Tottenham that summer, it signalled United’s road into mediocrity under new management.
Ferguson was desperate to build another Champions League winning side at Old Trafford
There was a general consensus that when the Scot stepped away from his duties at the Theatre of Dreams, he had left behind a below-par United team for Moyes to contend with.
That was certainly true, but Moyes didn’t have the character and experience of Ferguson to galvanise a side still reeling from a legend’s departure.
During his first season in charge in April 2014, Moyes was sacked – after the third-shortest managerial stint in United’s history – before they went on to finish all the way down in seventh under Ryan Giggs, who took over on a careraker basis.
It was a far cry from their glory days under Ferguson, and three managers later after Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United still haven’t managed to fully recover.
In the six full seasons that followed since Ferguson made his way through the departure lounge, United have only qualified for the Champions League twice and before football was brought to a halt due to the coronavirus this campaign, they were also sitting outside the top four.
Their days conquering Europe and England’s big guns are far gone but if the arrivals of Ronaldo and Bale had actually materialised, perhaps United would have written another chapter in their illustrious history books.