Arsene Wenger was Manchester United’s first-choice replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson, says ex-chairman Martin Edwards.
Ferguson had announced his intention to step down in the 2001-02 season, before performing a u-turn later in the campaign and eventually staying at Old Trafford for more than a decade.
Ahead of Ferguson’s change of heart, United had wasted no time in their search for a successor, though, turning to their major title rivals as the first port of call.
“Our first choice was Arsene,” Edwards has revealed in his new autobiography, Red Glory. “Since joining Arsenal in 1996 Wenger had been greatly successful, especially in his first full season in charge when he won the Double.
“And while it’s true to say he suffered hard times since, at the time we thought he was the best candidate to replace Alex. Certainly he was my number one choice.
“So we made our approach and Wenger did show a little bit of interest, enough to want to meet Peter Kenyon and me at his house in London to listen to what we had to say.”
Despite several meetings between Wenger and United, Edwards believes the Arsenal boss’ commitment to the club’s then hierarchy kept him at the Gunners.
“I think Wenger felt loyalty to David Dein,” Edwards added. “He was very close to David and that was the reason he gave us in the end for turning down United.”