Hitzfeld reveals Old Trafford approach

Manchester United approached current Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld to replace Sir Alex Ferguson after the Scot announced his intention to retire in 2002.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Hitzfeld revealed he was part of an elite shortlist of managers the Old Trafford club drew up to replace Ferguson at the end of the 2001/02 season.

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Hitzfeld is one of only three coaches to win the Champions League with different clubs, defeating the Red Devils on the way to lifting the trophy with Borussia Dortmund in 1997, and then again with Bayern Munich in 2001.

But the then Bayern coach turned down the approach, citing language as a barrier to him successfully fulfilling the role.

“I don’t want to go into too many details because it was between myself and Manchester United, but I decided to stay in Germany because, when I am coaching I prefer to express myself in German because this is my mother tongue.

“I didn’t think I would be able to do myself justice if I had to speak to the players in English. I would not be able to get my emotions and feelings across.

“The players in the Swiss dressing room speak a variety of languages, including Italian, French and English, but when they come to work I coach them in German.

“All the players understand it. If there are some special expressions required then one of my coaches might use a bit of Italian or French, but I coach them only in German and it is better that way.”

Hitzfeld takes charge of Switzerland on Tuesday night in their first Euro 2012 qualifier, as they face England in Basel.

By Patrick Barrett

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