If Gazza had signed for United…..


Paul Gascoigne was a genius of a player, of that there is no doubt. With a goal every four games from midfield for Newcastle United between 1985-88, it’s no wonder Sir Alex Ferguson identified him as the player to build a team capable of winning the Football League championship around, but it was Tottenham Hotspur who snapped up the mercurial Geordie.

Gascoigne had promised to sign for United but was somehow lured to White Hart Lane for £2m. As the story goes, Sir Alex went on holiday in the knowledge that he had signed Gascoigne until news reached him that he’d been scuppered.

United never signed anyone to fill the void that Gascoigne would have slotted into, instead soldiering on with the ever reliable Captain Marvel Bryan Robson and banking on youth with Ralph Milne, Russell Beardsmore and Liam O’Brien in the midfield along with Gordon Strachan and Lee Sharpe, but a year later Ferguson acted upon this and brought in Neil Webb from Nottingham Forest, Paul Ince from West Ham United and Mike Phelan from Norwich City for a total of £4.6m combined.

Granted, Webb didn’t turn out all that great for the club but in all fairness he did get a rather nasty Achilles tendon injury while playing for England and he never really recovered from it. Ince, however, went on to play over 200 times for the club, winning numerous trophies.

 The less said about his exit from United and subsequent return to England, the better. And Mike Phelan was Mr. Versatile, able to play in midfield or right back and is still at the club today, as assistant to Sir Alex.

Gascoigne went on to sign for Lazio in 1992, then came back to the United Kingdom with Rangers in 1998 before returning to England playing two seasons with Everton before making 14 more appearances in 3 years for three other clubs, before retiring from football in 2004. At his peak, he was a very good footballer, but in that time United had signed Roy Keane to play alongside Ince, and a certain Paul Scholes was coming through the ranks as a youngster.

So the only question that remains is, would I have had Gascoigne at Old Trafford?

 In a way, yes. There would probably have been no place for Paul Ince but it’s likely he wouldn’t have been signed with Gascoigne in the team. I do feel, also, that if Gazza had signed for United, he would have stayed for a long time. Can you imagine a midfield of Gascoigne and Keane with Scholes playing between midfield and attack, feeding the likes of Eric Cantona, Mark Hughes and Brian McClair?

It’s true to say United won trophies back then but with the genius of Gascoigne in full flow, you have to wonder if that ever-elusive European Cup could have been within an easier grasp of an already talented team that also had Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Nevilles to come.

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