Manchester United are England's most successful club in terms of trophies won and more often than not, have their way, when they are in for a player. It is not often that a footballer isn't swayed by the opportunity to play for a club with such history and tradition like the Red Devils.
Yet, that hasn't stopped them from missing out on their transfer targets at the eleventh hour. While some of them haven't been sorely felt, there have been plenty of great players who Manchester United have missed out on signing despite leading the race for their signature, due to a variety of reasons.
Here are 7 players Manchester United missed out on signing.
#1 Renato Sanches (Summer 2016)
Manchester United had been keeping a close eye on Renato Sanches ever since it emerged that the 18-year-old box-to-box midfielder was the hottest prospect to emerge out of Portugal since Cristiano Ronaldo, who United had signed in 2003. Unfortunately, they were beaten to the signing of the latest Portuguese sensation by German champions, Bayern Munich.
For a while, it looked as though United were in the pole position to secure his signature, having sent scouts to watch the 18-year-old on several occasions since he made his debut for Benfica at the start of the 2015/16 season. Although the midfielder had a contract until 2021, he was being targeted by all the major European clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, in addition to United and Bayern Munich.
United remained firm favourites to secure his signature. In the end though, Bayern were quicker to the trigger as they swooped in and sealed his signature, leaving United pondering what could have been, had they acted quicker.
#2 Pedro (Summer 2015)
Another one that slipped through the net, when it looked as though the deal was done and dusted was Pedro. The Spanish forward wanted to leave Barcelona, the club too weren't too keen on holding on to him, especially when they could have recovered a sizeable chunk of cash for selling him. For most of the summer, it looked as though Manchester United was the club that he was going to sign for.
But as they say in football, it isn't over until the fat lady sings and so it proved as Chelsea swooped in at the eleventh hour and secured his signature. The combination of Jose Mourinho and Fabregas, his ex-Barca and international teammate proved to be the difference between him signing for Chelsea and United. And just like that, another Spaniard had slipped through their grasp.
The then 27-year-old would have been the perfect addition for the Red Devils, who had just returned to the Champions League and were looking to add more quality in attack, but unfortunately, it wasn't to be.
#3 Cesc Fabregas (Summer 2013)
Cesc Fabregas was all set to be the first major signing of the Ed Woodward era. He was in the prime of his career and with Barcelona not looking especially keen on keeping him, the move was on. Even though he said that he "wouldn't even move for double my money" as he was enjoying his time at Barcelona.
All this was in 2013 but barely a year later, he moved, not to Manchester United, but to Chelsea. It did not take the Spaniard too long to change his mind as he said this, just a year later. "I asked Barcelona to find a way for me to leave the club, the president tried to stop the sale, but I already had my mind made up."
The major reason for him choosing Chelsea over United was his girlfriend who preferred London over Manchester and hence the destination change.
#4 Lucas Moura (January 2013)
When Lucas Moura was making waves in South America, there were plenty of European clubs fighting for his signature. And eventually, it came down to Manchester United and Paris Saint-German and the then 20-year-old moved to the latter for over £30 million from Sao Paulo. As one of the biggest draws in South American football at the time, it would have been a massive move for both the player and the club but the Brazilian winger later revealed why he chose PSG over United.
“I was very close to coming to Manchester United before I signed for PSG,” Lucas said. “It was honestly my choice to join PSG. I have all the respect for Manchester United, a great club with more tradition than Paris Saint-Germain, but I really liked the project PSG showed me.
“There are several Brazilians in the PSG squad which made a difference in my decision too. You know, I was quite young and it does make a difference to have some compatriots beside you. It helped me to settle down in Europe."
Unfortunately for United, the South American contingent, or lack of it, was the main reason why they missed out on one of the most promising youngsters at the time.
#5 Ronaldinho (Summer 2003)
As David Beckham swapped Manchester for Madrid, United were in need of someone to replace the England international. Sir Alex Ferguson had decided that it would be with Ronaldinho, who was set to move away from Paris Saint-Germain.
Everyone at United, including the manager thought they had their man, only for the Brazilian to choose Barcelona despite professing that he "would like to be at a great club like United". Years later, the Brazilian playmaker revealed how close he was to signing for United and why he chose the Catalan club instead.
"I was on the brink of joining Manchester United, there were just a few details to iron out, but Rosell called me at the last minute to tell me that they were going to win the election," he said. "And I had promised to him that I'd play for Barca. It was a quick negotiation. I told the English I had chosen Barca."
In the end, United missed out on a future FIFA Ballon d'Or not due to another player or manager but due to a friend of Ronaldinho's, Sandro Rosell.
#6 Alan Shearer (Summer 1996)
Manchester United in the Premier League in the 1990s were a beast unlike any other. They dominated the decade and won the league for fun and were only challenged and usurped briefly. When you consider all of this, it was perhaps a good thing for the league they failed to sign the Premier League's record goal scorer on two separate occasions.
The first time was in 1992 when he left Southampton, but were beaten to his signature by Blackburn Rovers, who won their one and only Premier League title thanks to the Englishman. The second time, however, was when United would feel they missed out on as Blackburn were ready to sell him for a world-record fee of £15 million in 1996.
Initially, Shearer chose United, as was evident by the fact he was looking for a house near the club's training ground but Kevin Keegan, who was the Newcastle United manager at the time, convinced him to sign for his boyhood club and the rest as they say, is history.
The English striker later wrote in his autobiography that his move wouldn't have been done without Keegan's intervention. "He sold me the idea of wearing the famous black and white No. 9 shirt".
#7 Paul Gascoigne (Summer 1988)
When your manager goes out on holiday safe in the knowledge that the signing was secured, you don't expect too much to go wrong. Unfortunately for Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson, something did go wrong and English football had to wait for a few more years before United started dominating the league.
In 1988, Paul Gascoigne was all set for a move away from his boyhood club, Newcastle United and the Red Devils emerged as front-runners along with Tottenham Hotspur. United thought they beat Spurs to the signing of the mercurial playmaker but Ferguson's holiday was rudely interrupted with the news that Gascoigne had signed for Spurs.
The Scot explained in his first autobiography how Spurs beat United to his signature. "The explanation of the late switch was said to be that Paul's feelings were swung when Tottenham bought a house for his parents," Ferguson wrote. They also chipped in with a car for his dad and a sunbed for his sister as well and while that might not seem like much now, it proved to be too hard to turn down for Gazza who made the move and proclaimed, rather unconvincingly that his "heart was always set on Spurs".