Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel
Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel won 17 major honours between them at Manchester UnitedGetty Images

Manchester United legends Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel were turned down by Liverpool prior to their moves to Old Trafford, according to former manager Graeme Souness.

Cantona and Schmeichel were hugely influential figures in laying the foundations to United dominance of English football through the 1990s and beyond, both moving to the club in 1992 for £505,000 and £1.2m respectively.

Having dominated in the 1980s, Liverpool's downturn in fortunes coincided with United's rise under Sir Alex Ferguson but things could have been very different for the Merseyside club had they taken a punt on two players who would go on to become legends.

"Ron Yeats was the chief scout and he came into my office one day and showed me a letter. It read: 'I am a Danish goalkeeper who has been a Liverpool supporter all my life,'" Souness said in the recently published book Men In White Suits, by Simon Hughes. "'I am willing to pay for my own travel expenses. Can I come to Melwood for a week's trial?'

"I was trying to edge Bruce [Grobbelaar] out. But it was proving difficult. I thought if another goalkeeper turned up, we were going to have more problems with Bruce. So it never happened."

Adding on a deal for Cantona: "We played Auxerre in the Uefa Cup. After the game, Michel Platini knocks on my office door and comes in. He said he had a player for me. 'A proper player.' He told me that he was a problem in France but would be perfect for Liverpool.

"The player was Eric Cantona. I said: 'Listen, I'm fighting lots of fires here at the moment; I don't need any more trouble.' It was another situation where I should have been more open-minded."

Despite enjoying a glittering playing career at Liverpool where he won five league titles and three European Cups, Souness was unable to replicate that success as a manager, winning just one major honour in three years – and thereby contributing to the club falling behind rivals United.

Meanwhile, between Cantona and Schmeichel, the pair won 17 major honours at United and helped rewrite the modern football landscape.