Damien Duff opens up on failed Manchester United transfer and meeting Sir Alex Ferguson

Former Republic of Ireland and Premier League star Damien Duff has spoken about why a proposed transfer to Manchester United never materialised and how he ended up signing for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea instead.

I remember the summer of 2003 as a young Irish kid. A lot of people had Duff on their jerseys, and he was one of the hottest prospects coming from our homeland. Roy Keane was already at United but to have another Irishman in the ranks would have pleased many supporters, I’ve no doubt.

“It nearly happened with both,” Duff said about United and Liverpool, another Premier League club with deep Irish connections, on the Open Goal podcast with Si Ferry. “I’m not sure what my get-out clause was with Blackburn, maybe £15m or £16m. I went for 17-point-something. It was maybe too much for them.

“Chelsea was never on my radar. Ideally, it would have been Man U or Liverpool – great clubs with Irish connections.”

Duff had established himself playing for Blackburn Rovers and after an impressive 2002 World Cup, he began to take centre stage in the top-flight. The time would always come for him to leave Ewood Park, so he wasn’t short for options.

Chelsea came in and got their man – using the fresh funds of Roman Abramovic.

Duff met with Sir Alex Ferguson

Duff, who grew up supporting United, even met with then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson to discuss a move to Old Trafford.

“I met Alex Ferguson and spoke to him. When you spend time with him and talk to him about football, you want to play for him. I think I just cost too much and they got better wingers than me in the end.

“We met in the kitman’s house. I think Fergie did all his business in Albert’s house. Albert picked me up at the airport and brought me there.

“I didn’t say a word for two or three hours, I was still a baby, 21 or 22, I just stared at him. I was probably dribbling as well. Ma made me wear a shirt and tie, as Irish mothers do. I was suited and booted. I looked like a dick, probably. That’s probably why he didn’t sign me. I was just dribbling looking at him.”

Duff ended up winning two Premier League titles under Mourinho at Chelsea, yet he is not a player I think Ferguson will ever regret not signing. That doesn’t change the fact Duff was a very good winger for Chelsea and Ireland.

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