Former West Ham manager Harry Redknapp has revealed just how desperate Sir Alex Ferguson was to sign a teenage Joe Cole for Manchester United.
Even before the days of Youtube and Social Media Cole’s reputation as a footballing prodigy was public knowledge before he had ever made a first team appearance.
However, he spurned the advances of the biggest clubs in the Premier League to make his first-team breakthrough with boyhood club West Ham, despite as Redknapp explains the likes of Fergie pulling out all the stops to convince him to move elsewhere.
“Sir Alex Ferguson sent him a Manchester United kit with COLE 10 written on the back,” Redknapp writes in his book, ‘Always Managing.’
“‘This is what your shirt will look like when you play for Manchester United,’ read the message. Alex was desperate to get him.
“He even invited him to travel on the team bus when United got to an FA Cup Final. Arsenal were into him, Chelsea were into him, but I knew Joe was happiest playing for West Ham. So I gave him space.
“When George (Joe’s dad) said Joe had been invited up to train for two weeks at Manchester United, I let him go.
“I could have got annoyed, said that he had signed schoolboy forms with us and threatened to report United, but what good would that have done? It would just have antagonised George and we’d lost the player.
“‘Great, George,’ I told him. ‘Let Joe go, let him have a look around, but never forget, we’d love him here. he’s going to be in the first team in no time, you know. But Manchester United? What a great experience. Tell him to enjoy himself.’
“So we’d lose Joe for two weeks, but he wouldn’t have as much fun as he did at West Ham where he knew everybody and got on with all the boys, so he’d come back more in love with our place than ever.”
Cole would make his first team debut for the Hammers as a 17-year-old in 1999 before swapping East London for West in 2003, when he joined Chelsea and went onto win three Premier League titles with the Blues.
The 51 cap England international would also go onto play for Liverpool, Lille, Aston Villa and Coventry. He announced his retirement from the game earlier this week after spending the last couple of seasons in the United Soccer League with Tampa Bay Rowdies.