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How close were United to signing Sneijder?

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The missed signing that Sir Alex rues the most is still that of Paul Gascoigne from Newcastle United, with the midfielder instead opting to head to Tottenham in 1988, when the Reds had looked in pole position to land the skilful playmaker.

“In reality, you have to say, the only one that always comes to my mind and that’s Gascoigne,” declared Ferguson. “He was absolutely fantastic. I think if we’d have got him, he would have had a great career, I really do. I’m not saying he didn’t have a good career but he would have had a better career with us.

“We had Geordies in our squad like Robson, Bruce plus Bobby Charlton. Sir Bobby would have been a fantastic mentor to him because he’s such a fantastic man and even Gary Pallister, although he was from Middlesbrough and I know they don’t count that as a Geordie, as someone who understands the culture like Gary would. He promised to sign for us and I went on holiday.

“I got a phone-call from the front desk from Martin Edwards saying he’d signed for Tottenham. He signed for Tottenham because they bought his mother a house for £80,000 and, dearie me, I couldn’t believe it, you know. He was a fantastic player.”

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