Eric Cantona will go down as one of the most flamboyant footballers ever to pull on a Manchester United jersey, yet it appears as though Sir Alex Ferguson missed out on someone that many will think matched the Frenchman in terms of ability. While the Scot has signed a flock of top-class players during his managerial career at Old Trafford, he failed to snare this forward from West Ham, someone who could have achieved cult status at the club.
The Daily Telegraph reveal that Paolo Di Canio was close to signing for United in 2002, and that Fergie reckons that he would have fitted in perfectly as a strike partner to Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Never mind that the Italian was something of a firebrand, it’s clear that the Red Devils manager feels confident he would have got the best out of him.
In an interview with GQ, Ferguson said: “Di Canio would have been capable of becoming a truly great player at Manchester United.
“I mean, he was a great player. But when you have a player like Di Canio, who expresses himself as an individual, like [George] Best and Cantona did, and [Ryan] Giggs, [Wayne] Rooney, Ronaldo and [Dimitar] Berbatov do… we make heroes quickly here. Di Canio could have been in that category.”
Following Andy Cole’s move to Blackburn and the sale of Teddy Sheringham to Tottenham, Ferguson saw Di Canio as an ideal candidate to to partner Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.
However, Manchester United’s stumbling block was the failure to find a buyer for Dwight Yorke as well as the £3 million price tag labelled by West Ham for the striker.
Would Manchester United supporters have loved to have seen Di Canio at Old Trafford, or would he have been too much of a liability for the club? It’s clear that Fergie loves his flair players, as can be seen by the acquisition of Dimitar Berbatov, just who will be next to arrive at the club?