Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has already confirmed that the club want to replace Cristiano Ronaldo as the January transfer window approaches. And he expects the Red Devils to do much better than when the veteran left Real Madrid in 2009, where Gabriel Obertan, Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia arrived. Express Sport will turn back the clock and look at five brilliant United players with their eyes but ultimately missed out.
In 2009, Karim Benzema was coming to prominence at Lyon, having scored 23 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions.
And Rio Ferdinand revealed last year that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted the France international to replace Ronaldo, saying: “The first time I played against him, Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him.”
Owen, who arrived, also said: “I only came to United because he chose Real Madrid over United.
“The first time I got a call from Sir Alex Ferguson, he said: ‘We want to sign Benzema, if we don’t get him, we’ll get you.’
Benzema, however, would go on to move to Real Madrid, and has since powered the La Liga giants to five Champions League titles, with the most recent coming earlier this year, where the Whites beat Liverpool in the final .
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United were linked with Franck Ribéry in the 2007 summer transfer window, when it was clear he would leave Marseille behind.
But with the Red Devils prioritizing Carlos Tevez at the time, it paved the way for the striker to move to Germany with Bayern Munich.
Two years later, United looked again at Ribery, who at the time was operating at the peak of his powers for Bayern Munich.
Alas, it was to be a similar story.
Bayern had no plans to let Ribery go and he would go on to become a legend at the Allianz Arena, propelling the German giants to nine Bundesliga titles before joining Fiorentina in 2019.
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David Silva became a legend for Manchester City when he moved in 2011.
But Ferguson revealed he had been watching the Spain international a few years before his move to the Etihad. That is, in 2009, when Ronaldo jumped ship.
The Scot recalled in 2015: “We saw a lot of Silva when he was at Valencia. And the other player they had, of the same type, years before, played that role of number 10.
“My problem with that was you have to be really, really good to play that position because there’s no defensive duties for them.”
And he wasn’t the only Valencia icon that United missed that year either…
David Villa was one of the best strikers in world football in 2009, scoring 31 goals in 43 games in all competitions during the 2008/09 season.
And the Red Devils had him on their radar at the time of Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid.
However, Villa was reluctant to leave Spain at that stage of his career and would stay at Valencia before jumping to Barcelona the following year as Ibrahimovic’s replacement.
It didn’t go too badly for him at the Camp Nou either, as he scored as Barcelona beat United 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League final.
Villa would also move to Atletico Madrid before retiring to Vissel Kobe in 2019.