While it’s now widely accepted that one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest mistake as Manchester United manager - possibly the biggest - was his failure to retain the services of Paul Pogba, it cannot be forgotten that the iconic Scot also rejected the opportunity to sign current Liverpool and England midfielder Jordan Henderson.
Ferguson admitted in his autobiography, published in 2013, that United looked closely at Henderson before deciding not to sign the former Sunderland midfielder on account of concerns over his long-term fitness.
His unusual running style, United feared, would lead to problems further down the line.
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Ferguson rejected Henderson
“We looked at Jordan Henderson a lot and Steve Bruce was unfailingly enthusiastic about him,” Ferguson wrote. “Against that, we noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips.
“We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”
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Henderson is a class act - and a leader
But how Manchester United could do with a player of Henderson’s class and work ethic today.
The 24-year-old has come on in leaps and bounds over recent seasons, thanks in no small part to his current manager Brendan Rodgers.
This season he has become a indispensable member of the Liverpool squad and is now amongst the first names on Rodgers’ team-sheet; the player destined to replace Steven Gerrard as Liverpool captain at the end of the season.
England coach Gary Neville praised Henderson, not just for his development but also his professionalism and work ethic, calling him a “great lad”.
Meanwhile, Henderson’s former teammate Jamie Carragher admitted he had been surprised with the midfielder’s rapid rise and now believes he is amongst the Premier League’s best.
Henderson will have a key role to play on Sunday
It’s hard to disagree; Henderson has developed into a real leader with an eye for goal and that all-important ability to play an incisive pass.
Last season he scored four Premier League goals and contributed seven assists, while this term - with two months of the campaign still to play - he has five goals and eight assists to his name.
Although United also have several midfielders who can score and assist, none of them possess the leadership qualities of Henderson.
The Red Devils lack leadership at the moment; Wayne Rooney is their only character - the only player capable of rousing his teammates in the difficult moments.
Perhaps it was difficult to tell a few years ago that Henderson would develop into a real on-pitch leader - hindsight is a wonderful thing - but Ferguson’s decision to snub Henderson on the basis of his running style has led United to miss out on one of the best English midfielders of the current era.
And nobody would be surprised if it's the Ferguson reject who has the last laugh at Anfield this Sunday.
Did Manchester United make a big mistake rejected Jordan Henderson? Have your say in the comments below!
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