Arsene Wenger showed “interest” in succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United when the Scotsman first announced his intention to step down in 2001 and met with the club’s hierarchy, ex-chairman Martin Edwards has claimed.
Ferguson announced his desire to step down in the 2001/02 season before performing a U-turn later in the term. He went on to remain at Old Trafford for more than decade.
But United acted quickly ahead of Ferguson’s eventual change of heart and made contact with Wenger in their search for a successor.
The Arsenal boss allegedly registered "a little bit of interest" in the position and met with Edwards and former chief executive Peter Kenyon.
"Our first choice was Arsene," Edwards has revealed in his new autobiography, Red Glory.
"Since joining Arsenal in 1996 Wenger had been greatly successful, especially in his first full season in charge when he won the Double.
"And while it's true to say he suffered hard times since, at the time we thought he was the best candidate to replace Alex. Certainly he was my number one choice.
"So we made our approach and Wenger did show a little bit of interest, enough to want to meet Peter Kenyon and me at his house in London to listen to what we had to say."
Several meetings took place between Wenger and United but the Frenchman opted to stay put with Arsenal, where he remains to this day.
Edwards believes that Wenger’s “loyalty” to the club’s then hierarchy kept him from swapping north London for Manchester.
"I think Wenger felt loyalty to David Dein," Edwards added. "He was very close to David and that was the reason he gave us in the end for turning down United."
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