Former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has made the astonishing claim that the club opted for Steve Bruce ahead of the new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal back in 2009.
The Irishman held talks with the AZ Alkmaar head coach after he’d guided the club to the Eredivisie title, and even got the thumbs up from his wife to pursue the deal.
However, the Black Cats opted for Steve Bruce in a bid to cement their place in the Premier League, and it worked thanks to a top-10 finish under the former Red Devils skipper.
"We'd always had Steve Bruce on the list. Maybe some would say we'd delusions of grandeur but we had good feedback from Louis van Gaal,” said Quinn, according to the Sunderland Echo.
"I spoke to him personally a couple of times on the phone at home. One time his wife answered and told me: 'Keep working on him, I want to go to England’."
Quinn also revealed that owner Ellis Short was willing to back the move, recognising that it would be a major coup at the Stadium of Light.
Other big names were also in the frame, Quinn claims, with representatives of Roberto Mancini sounding out the club as they looked to replace Ricky Sbragia at the helm.
"That was adventurous but Ellis was all set to back it if it came off. That was after Ricky. Roberto Mancini's people got in touch with us at that time too. He'd been having English lessons,” added Quinn.
"It was interesting. We opted for Steve and he got us a top-10 finish. He understood basic things like needing goalscorers: we had Danny Welbeck [on loan from Manchester United] for a while.”
Van Gaal eventually went on to join Bayern Munich, and helped the German giants to the Bundesliga title and a Champions League final in his first season with the club.
But, after less than two seasons at the Allianz Arena, he was relieved his duties as the club struggled for a top-three finish the following year. He returned to management with the Dutch national team in 2012.
And, in his two years at the helm with the Netherlands, he led his country to third-place at the World Cup before finally making the move to the Premier League with Manchester United.
Red Devils revolution
He’s put his stamp on the former Premier League champions early, bringing Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera to Old Trafford for substantial sums of money, and the spending might not yet be over for the Red Devils ahead of the new season.