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Football

Former England Manager Admits He Was ‘Really Close’ To Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson At Manchester United

Alex Reid

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Former England Manager Admits He Was ‘Really Close’ To Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson At Manchester United

A former England manager has explained how close he came to replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, 11 years before Fergie finally left the club.

Ferguson shocked the football world by announcing he was planning to retire at the end of the 2001/02 season - and Fabio Capello has opened up on the detailed talks he had with Man United about becoming the club's new boss, before Fergie had a late change of heart.

"It was really close - that is the truth," Capello told football magazine FourFourTwo. "I can't deny that I would have loved to train Manchester United."

Capello had been ready to leave his job with Roma, but instead had to make do with a phone call from Fergie explaining his U-turn.

"After winning Serie A with Roma in 2001, I spoke to representatives who came to visit me in Rome, but we couldn't sign anything because Sir Alex decided not to retire in the end!" said Capello.

"He phoned me a few days later to apologise, because his wife was trying to convince him to leave, but it was a friendly conversation and I told him that nothing was wrong."

As you can imagine, there was plenty of speculation around who would replace Ferguson in 2002 and one of the leading candidates was the then England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was also sounded out.

But clearly talks were progressing with Capello as well, who had won league titles in Italy and Spain, as well as the Champions League with AC Milan in 1994.

Ferguson's decision to stay on as United boss proved an excellent one for the Scot and his club, as they went on to win another six Premier League titles, a Champions League in 2008 and several other trophies before Fergie eventually called it a day in 2013.

Capello meanwhile stayed at Roma until 2004, then had spells with Juventus and Real Madrid, before taking over as England manager in 2007, replacing Steve McClaren.

Also in his FourFourTwo interview, Capello opened up on his relationship with David Beckham. The Italian first managed Becks at Real Madrid and initially dropped him from the first team when he signed a pre-contract with LA Galaxy, before Capello had a change of heart.

"In February 2007, the team suffered a negative streak of results, we'd fallen too far behind Barca in the league and had a difficult match in San Sebastian against Real Sociedad. I decided that the time was right to lift Beckham's punishment," said Capello.

"A month earlier, he'd announced that he wasn't going to be renewing his contract with Real Madrid and that he was moving to America to join LA Galaxy, so I made the decision not to play him again.

"But the truth is that he still trained like a great professional and always had strong support from his teammates, so that was it. That was why he returned to the side and carried on playing."

Real Madrid went on to win La Liga that year, Beckham's only major honor with Los Blancos. You can read the full interview with Capello in this month's issue of FourFourTwo.

All imagery: PA Images

Topics: Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello, Premier League

Alex Reid
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