How Manchester United missed out on the greatest player of all time

Manchester United almost signed Pele.

Yes, you read that right. Widely considered one of – if not the – greatest players ever to have lived, the Brazil legend came close to moving from Santos to Old Trafford in the late 1960s.

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“Yes, I had an offer in, I think in ‘68,” said Pele. “The late sixties. The team I used to play for Santos said, ‘We have had a number of calls to play in Manchester for Manchester United.

“They asked ‘Do you want to play there?’ Back then Santos was one of the best teams—Santos and Real Madrid. So I said, ‘No, I will stay.’”

If he had joined that year, he’s have been playing under Matt Busby, and walking onto the pitch in United red alongside the likes of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best.

But it looks as though Pele may have made the right decision to stay at his boyhood club Santos. Although they won the title in 1966-67 (and the European Cup in 1968), United failed to lift the First Division trophy until the inaugural Premier League season in 1993.

That said, if they’d had the world’s best player in their ranks, they’d very likely have changed history altogether. Who knows, Pele could have prevented Liverpool and Leeds dominating the English game in that interim period…

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