Former Scotland, Aberdeen and Manchester United goalkeeper Jim Leighton has revealed Sir Alex Ferguson was in line to become Arsenal’s manager in 1986 – before a disagreement over his unveiling.
Leighton, who was part of the Scotland squad coached by Ferguson during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, told BBC Radio Five Live Ferguson was contacted by the Gunners just before the tournament and offered the manager’s job.
According to Leighton, Ferguson had been prepared to take the job – with fellow Scot George Graham, who was appointed soon after, as his assistant – but failed to reach an agreement with the north London club as he had wanted to wait until after the World Cup finished before an announcement was made.
“We were in Santa Fe before we went to Mexico and Fergie was offered the Arsenal job at the time and George Graham would have been his assistant,” Leighton said.
“But he wanted to wait until the World Cup was finished before it was getting announced and Arsenal said that they wanted it straightaway.
“So he refused it and George Graham got the job. Who knows what could have happened to Arsenal and Man United if that had been the case and went ahead.
“He wanted to announce it when he got back to Aberdeen, to do it the right way. So credit to him, he wanted to do it the right way and not from a press conference in America.”
Ferguson, who had already led Aberdeen to domestic and European success, replaced Ron Atkinson as Manchester United manager in November that year and is still in charge, 23 years and more than 30 trophies later.
Graham, the former Arsenal and Scotland midfielder, took over at Highbury in May 1986 and enjoyed nine successful years there.
My love affair with Manchester United began very shortly after I migrated to Australia with my family in 1956.
Football had already been my passion but being isolated in a country where it meant nothing to anyone except fellow migrants, I began following English football closely through subscription magazines like the Charles Buchan Football Monthly and World Soccer which incidentally, I've still got stored away after more than 50 years.
The Munich disaster happened when I was 15 years old and the bond was formed. Matt Busby, Bobby Charlton and others became childhood heroes. The FA Cup was won just 5 years later then, when that was followed by the European Cup in 1968, the love affair was complete!
With George Best in 1991
Throw in legends like Denis Law and George Best into the mix and it’s not hard to imagine why the club became part of my life even though I was living thousands of miles away from Old Trafford.
The many events connected with the club in the years since has only cemented a connection which will remain until the end of my days.