Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says he resisted the temptation to sign Robin van Persie ahead of Arsenal as youngster because the Dutch striker was 'too immature'.
Van Persie joined Arsenal in Feyenoord for a fee of £2.7 million in 2004, before leaving the Gunners for Manchester United in this year's summer transfer window in a deal worth £24 million.
The 29-year-old scored against Arsenal on Saturday in his first meeting with the Gunners since leaving for Manchester United, as the Red Devils triumphed 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Van Persie found the net 132 times in 277 appearances for Arsenal before his transfer for Manchester United, and Ferguson says the Netherlands international may never have become a Gunner, had the Scot viewed things differently at the time.
“Robin was only 16 or 17 at the time,” Ferguson said, as reported by The Mirror. “But our assessment of young players is always based on the potential you see in them.
“We sent Jim Ryan over to Feyenoord and Robin was actually sent off in the game. Jim said he was a fantastic talent, but felt that he was a little immature.
“At 16, we’re all immature, but we didn’t progress it, and then he went to Arsenal."
Ferguson also says he did not expect he would ever be able to secure a deal for Van Persie after missing out eight years ago, but realised Manchester United were in with a chance when the striker announced he would not sign a new contract with Arsenal.
It was then down to the Manchetser United boss to speak to Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger to broker a deal for Van Persie, and Ferguson says the Gunners got a good deal for their former captain.
"I never thought we would get him, until he convinced us that he wouldn’t be signing a new contract at Arsenal," Ferguson added.
“We just started working hard with Arsene Wenger and myself, I phoned him quite a few times, and we eventually came to an agreement.
“If Robin had more than one year left on his contract, we would never have got him.
“There’s no doubt about that and he worked hard to keep him. The next stage, once he accepted that he had to let him go, was to make sure we paid him the money.
“And Arsene has always done a phenomenal job getting top dollar for players.”