Dion Dublin: Chelsea wanted to build a team around me, but Fergie twisted my arm
The young striker had failed to make the breakthrough at Norwich but proved a hit at the Abbey Stadium, firing the U’s to consecutive promotions – scoring the first ever goal in a Wembley play-off final – and successive FA Cup quarter-final appearances.
After narrowly missing out on a third straight promotion, and a place in the inaugural Premier League campaign, Dublin was put up for sale and wasn’t short of suitors.
Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United were all keen to recruit the goal-getter, and Dublin says he met with all three in a whirlwind day of travelling and transfer talks.
Speaking in the April 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out Wednesday, he explains: “In one day, I ended up having talks with Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United.
“Ian Porterfield, the Chelsea manager, told me he wanted to build his team around me, which sounded exciting.
“We spoke for a couple of hours, then I headed up north to see Howard Kendall at Everton. He popped open the champagne to welcome me there. I spent another couple of hours with him, and suddenly I was thinking I had a big decision to make.
“Then I went to Old Trafford, and Alex Ferguson was waiting for me. He put his arm around my shoulder and, without saying a word, walked me into the stadium, down the tunnel, onto the pitch, into the centre circle, and plonked me on the centre spot.
“‘So, how do you fancy playing here every fortnight?’ he asked. I couldn’t sign for United quickly enough. Even before he’d won that first league title, Alex had that incredible aura around him – he knew exactly what to do to turn a footballer’s head.”
After scoring the winner in United’s maiden Premier League victory at Southampton, the £1 million man broke a leg against Crystal Palace days later and went on to make only 12 league outings for the Red Devils.
While he has no regrets in the game, Dublin does wonder how his career might have panned out had he stayed fit.
“I do think I would have scored goals, both because of the supply line from each wing – Lee Sharpe, Ryan Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis – and because with all of those terrific guys around me, I would have become a better player,” says Dublin, who later bagged 109 Premier League goals for Coventry and Aston Villa combined.
“I don’t have any regrets in football, although I’d love to know what could have happened in my career if I’d been able to sustain a long spell in the United team.”
Read the full One-on-One interview with Dion Dublin in the April 2019 issue of FourFourTwo magazine, which also features exclusive chats with Virgil van Dijk, Ander Herrera, Lucas Moura and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Plus we hail some of the greatest centre-backs of all time, watch the East End team made up entirely of Brazilians and head to Thessaloniki to watch a table-topping bout between PAOK and Olympiakos.