A great mutual respect exists between Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola was Ferguson’s first choice to replace him at Manchester United in 2013 - the pair had met in New York a year earlier, but the Scot hadn’t made a final decision over retirement at that point - and the two men always speak very highly of each other in interviews.
Ferguson even wrote the foreword for a Guardiola biography written by the Spanish football writer Guillem Balague.
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Fergie also wanted to bring the former Barcelona midfielder to Old Trafford in time for the 2001-02 campaign, but was snubbed by the Catalan.
Guardiola rejected the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with the legendary United boss because he wasn’t prepared to make any decision over his future until he’d played his final match for his boyhood club and this, according to the player’s agent, made United and Ferguson ‘angry’.
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Guardiola's agent: United and Fergie got angry
“The first club that went in hard for Guardiola was United. They really wanted him. Pep never wanted to talk about it,” Guardiola’s agent Josep Maria Orobitg told The Sun. “He kept his word, even when it involved Manchester United, a club that any player would have killed to negotiate with.
“United pressed me but I couldn’t do anything. Pep hadn’t yet explained to the Barcelona president he wasn’t going to stay.
“United then gave us an ultimatum, they wanted a face-to-face meeting between Ferguson and Guardiola.
“They had to plan their team and couldn’t wait any longer.
“Guardiola said no to the meeting and United abandoned their interest in Pep, and even got angry.
“After eight months of discussions with United, never with Pep, always me, and rejecting great financial terms, it all finished.”
Guardiola 'doesn't regret' his decision
Instead of United, Guardiola would sign for Italian club Brescia after leaving the Camp Nou after 17 years in 2001.
But does the current Manchester City boss wish he’d accepted the opportunity to meet Ferguson and sign for United?
“Josep has never regretted that decision,” Orobitg adds, “he always accepts responsibility for what he does.”
United signed Veron instead
Instead of Guardiola, Ferguson ended up breaking the British transfer record to sign the Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron in the summer of 2001.
Nicky Butt revealed in an interview with The Times earlier this week that Veron was the best player he ever saw at Old Trafford - with the exception of Eric Cantona - but felt the South American couldn’t handle the pace and tempo of either the club or the league.
Would Pep Guardiola have been a better signing than Juan Sebastian Veron in 2001? Have your say by leaving a comment below.