Football Features

How Fernando Torres and four Liverpool UCL winners very nearly joined Man Utd

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 11:22, 22 June 2019

The intense rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United has meant no direct transfer has taken place between the clubs since 1964, when inside forward Phil Chisnall swapped Old Trafford for Anfield.

Both teams, who have presided over dynasties in English football, have always been competitive and there’s no better example of this than in the transfer market.

Given the pedigree of both clubs, many footballers down the years have been associated with two of the Premier League’s most decorated sides, and there would ultimately be a good reason why they signed for either the Reds or United.

What follows are five examples of individuals who, since the year 2000, joined Liverpool despite reported interest from United.

1. Fernando Torres

A graduate of Atletico Madrid’s esteemed academy, the Fuenlabrada-born marksman broke through at the turn of the century and quickly attracted the attention of many European clubs, including Manchester United.

During the summer of 2006, with Torres representing Spain at the World Cup, he was heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford and former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson even admitted to being a huge fan of the blonde striker.

“For years we tried to do a deal there but we never quite managed it either because Atletico Madrid didn’t want to sell or one year the player felt he was too young,” he said in 2007, as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

“Then we just lost interest a bit because sometimes you get fed up with going back to the same venue all the time.

“I think the advantage that Rafa had was that he is Spanish and his dealings with Atletico Madrid were maybe better than ours because he’s Spanish.

“He’s a good player. We wouldn’t have been interested in him if he wasn’t.”

However, a move never materialised, and after bagging 91 goals across 244 matches for his boyhood club, he then joined Liverpool in the summer of 2007, with Luis Garcia moving to Atletico in a separate transfer deal.

Torres’ time at Anfield was a huge success in terms of goalscoring, as the Spaniard registered 81 goals in 142 matches, before controversially joining Chelsea in January 2010.

The World Cup winner recently announced that he is retiring from professional football at the age of 35 following a spell in Japan.

2. Roberto Firmino

Reports in early June 2015 suggested United, then under the management of Louis van Gaal, had reached an agreement with Hoffenheim for the services of forward Roberto Firmino.

The Maceio-born footballer had just completed his fifth season with the Bundesliga outfit, registering 49 goals during his stint there, and was seemingly destined to leave Germany: the country he had called home since 2011.

However, United didn’t get their man. Instead, the Brazil international, who made England his next destination, opted for Liverpool and has not looked back since, having bagged himself 66 goals and a Champions League medal so far.

Predominantly a deep-lying forward, Firmino plays in between the Reds’ imperious wide-men Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, with the Liverpool attackers forging a formidable front three as good as any in Europe at the moment.

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3. Sadio Mane

Speaking of Mane, he was another player United earmarked as a potential recruit. The 46-time Senegal international, who initially made his name at Red Bull Salzburg, was pulling trees at Southampton when the Red Devils’ interest became apparent.

United were again under the management of Van Gaal, a manager who puts wingers at the centre of his approach, so hiring Mane would make sense. Even after the Dutchman’s departure, his successor Jose Mourinho was said to have retained interest.

But, again, nothing happened, despite heavy speculation. Mane, a wanted man, instead opted for Merseyside and teamed up with Jurgen Klopp.

“Yes, it was true,” he said of Mourinho’s interest.

“There was interest from a lot of clubs, not just Manchester United, but as soon as I knew Liverpool were interested I just felt it was the right club with the right coach. It was right for me to come here.

“Liverpool are a massive club with a big history that has won many trophies over the years and as soon as I was told of the possibility to come here and I knew the manager wanted me I said yes.

“It was the right move. I recognise the size of the club and to progress to another level as a player this was the club and the moment for me. It was a step I needed to make.”

4. Harry Kewell

It goes without saying that Ferguson, throughout his 26-year reign at Old Trafford, loved his wingers and until the day he retired, the illustrious Glaswegian continued to structure his team around wide players.

Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, two of the best exponents of this art, were central to United’s dominance in the 1990s, as they were among the very best in the Premier League at that time.

Another individual who graced the flanks was Harry Kewell, the wing-wizard from Down Under, and for a while, his name was associated with the other United club from across the Pennines: Leeds United.

The Red Devils were hellbent on acquiring the Australian forward’s signature, as Ferguson, according to a report in the Guardian, attempted to hijack Kewell’s deal to sign for Liverpool in 2003 by contacting the player before he dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

“Playing for Liverpool has always been my aim,” Kewell said. “The only thing that has hurt me is how the Leeds fans might have perceived all the arguments. Hopefully, they can see it’s not me who has done all this. It’s disappointing how the chairman at Leeds has portrayed me.”

United’s loss was Liverpool’s gain but that summer, Ferguson did sign a winger. A scrawny figure from Sporting Lisbon in Portugal named Cristiano Ronaldo.

5. Jurgen Klopp

David Moyes was heralded as the “chosen one” when he succeeded Ferguson as Manchester United manager in 2013, but things could have turned out differently. It has been well-documented that his predecessor spoke with Pep Guardiola in New York about the job, but he had already committed to Bayern Munich. However, there was another man in the frame: Jurgen Klopp.

With the summer of 2013 approaching, Ferguson spoke with the German tactician, who had just guided Die Borussen to a second European Cup final, but his sheer loyalty for BVB prevented him moving just yet.

“We spoke,” he said in 2016, as reported by the Guardian.

“We spoke not a lot but, for me, it was a lot. It was a big honour, the whole talk, to be honest. There was a time [when United were interested] but I could not leave Dortmund. That is it. You are in April and you are in the middle of the planning for next season. You have this player and this player and this player who is coming in but then you are not there any more? That doesn’t work. Not in my life anyway.

“I did not hear about a real offer but, if there was, I could not have done it. I first had to finish the job with Dortmund and then think about other things. Maybe that is not the smart way but that is my way. Of course, I was loyal to Dortmund. It was the same at Mainz.”

He’d move to England, though, in October 2015 following the dismissal of Brendan Rodgers, who himself came so close to ending the Red’s long wait to become English champions in 2014.

So far, Klopp has overseen his side’s transformation into one of the most exciting teams in the world, narrowly missing out on the 18/19 Premier League title but compensating by winning this season’s Champions League.