Sir Alex Ferguson and Zinedine Zidane..

Why Manchester United decided against signing Zinedine Zidane in 1996

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All managers must secretly envy Zinedine Zidane at the moment.

The Frenchman is in command of one of the greatest teams assembled in the 21st century and is reaping the rewards. In fact, coming into this season, Zidane had won as many honours at Real Madrid as he had lost games.

Both campaigns he has been at the reins have ended in Champions League victories too and all this, in his first job as manager at a club.


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Simply put, it seems Zidane is as good at management as he was as a player and that’s saying something.

The 45-year-old is a legend in the beautiful game, winning about everything there is to win.

But this is Zidane we’re talking about; he doesn’t simply collect the medal. If he’s going to capture the World Cup, he’ll score two goals in the final and if he’s going to win the Champions League, he’ll smash home a still-memorable volley.

His career was fostered in his home country of France before a move to Juventus in 1996 ultimately shaped his career.

The midfielder’s move to the Old Lady wasn’t plain sailing and, at times, Zidane even struggled in Serie A. However, it matured him enough as a player that by the time he moved to Real Madrid, he was practically in a league of his own.

Fiorentina v Juventus X

It could have been so much different, though.

That’s because Juventus weren’t the only side in the running for Zidane in 1996, with Manchester United also interested. The Red Devils had just recovered their Premier League crown but after a fierce title race with Newcastle.

Consequently, they were looking to build upon a side that mainly consisted of the ‘Class of ‘92’.

It was in fact United’s end of the deal that collapsed, however, with the club eventually deciding against a move. And the club’s chariman at the time – Martin Edwards – has lifted the lid on that very decision.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he explained: "Zidane and Eric played in the same position and Alex felt if they brought Zidane in it would have upset Eric.

"In hindsight yes [it's a regret], because Eric retired a year later and Zidane was younger so he would have continued it."

Eric Cantona holds the FA Cup 11 May 1996 at Wembl

Just imagine – Paul Scholes and Zidane pulling the strings at Old Trafford; Ryan Giggs and David Beckham either side of them.

That summer’s capture of Karel Poborsky simply doesn’t compare.

Who would you rather have in your team - Zinedine Zidane or Paul Scholes? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Eric Cantona
Zinedine Zidane

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