Sir Alex Ferguson came close to quitting his managerial job at Manchester United in 2002. That’s pretty much common knowledge.
What has now emerged is how he could have left the Red Devils five years earlier for Newcastle United.
At the time Freddy Shepherd was the Toon chairman and was keen to replace the 63-year-old Englishman with another great manager. Who else to turn to but the one and only Sir Alex?
The Scot had piped Newcastle to the title the previous season, despite United being 12 points behind them in January and was making his name in English football.
Shepherd has now revealed how he had toyed with the idea of approaching Ferguson to manage Newcastle and how he had to quickly look elsewhere for salvation.
“When Keegan left we tried to get Ferguson to Newcastle as his replacement,” he told The Chronicle. “We had talks with his advisors at the time.
“Martin (Manchester United chief Martin Edwards) rang and said to me, ‘Have you got anything to tell me?’ “I said, ‘No’.
“He said ‘What if I said, “Ferguson”, what would you say?’ I was on a boat at the time and I nearly fell off it.”
“We soon realised there was no way he was going to come to Newcastle. He was just trying to get an increase in salary. We knew we were just being used. Kevin had left and we tried to get Ferguson but that’s as far as we got.
“We were ambitious, we tried to get him – at least we tried. At one time we thought we might get him because he wasn’t happy with Man U. It wasn’t to be though.”
Since then, United have gone from strength to strength in the Premier League, winning the Champions League twice and establishing themselves as one of the biggest clubs in the world.
And Newcastle? They have struggled in the league, then made amends, featured in the Champions League, got relegated, gained promotion and are now pretty much an also-ran.
Ferguson to Newcastle will always remain a case of what if.