Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane attracted the interest of Manchester United chief scout Les Kershaw during his time at Bordeaux OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

Martin Edwards has revealed all on Manchester United's decision to turn down the chance to sign the likes of Zinedine Zidane, John Barnes and Gary Lineker during his lengthy tenure as club chairman, and opened up on their failure to secure deals for Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer.

With Edwards' story of life during United's successful attempts to cement their status as one of the most successful and recognised sporting institutions on the planet released in September, the 72-year-old, who now serves as an honorary life president, has lifted the lid on a number of intriguing subplots from his 22-year stint in the corridors of power at Old Trafford.

The subject of Edwards' five biggest transfer near-misses was the subject of a latest interview with MUTV, in which he revealed that it was Sir Alex Ferguson's preference for the returning Eric Cantona that caused the Red Devils to baulk at the idea of acquiring compatriot Zidane during his formative years in Ligue 1.

Blackburn Rovers made a similar mistake during the mid-1990s, with owner Jack Walker responding to manager Kenny Dalglish's recommendation with the now infamous line: "Why do you want to sign Zinedine Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?"

Speaking on United's own decision not to pursue a player that would go onto become one of the greatest midfielders in history, Edwards said: "When Zidane was at Bordeaux, Les Kershaw, the chief scout, was telling me we should be interested in him and I mentioned it to Alex. Alex said that Eric had also mentioned Zidane to him but Alex felt Zidane played in the same position as Eric.

"Having gone over to France to persuade Eric to re-sign for us, after the Crystal Palace incident [kung-fu kick], he felt that, if he had brought Zidane in, it may have affected Eric's position, so he stuck with Eric."

Edwards tells a similar tale about Barnes, who was apparently offered to United before he left Watford for Liverpool in 1987. However, Ferguson, then approaching his first full season as manager, instead decided to persevere with Danish winger Jesper Olsen instead.

Two years earlier, Ferguson's predecessor, Ron Atkinson, swiftly rejected the chance to stop Leicester City's future World Cup Golden Boot winner Lineker from joining Everton, as he felt he already had a full quota of strikers.

On narrowly being beaten to Gascoigne in 1988, Edwards said: "Paul Gascoigne was certainly one [we missed out on]. We thought he was coming but at the last minute he decided to join Tottenham. I think there were certain last-minute inducements involved."

Shearer has since claimed that a failure on United's part to return a simple phone call led to him not holding talks with the club before departing Southampton for Blackburn in 1992. The Red Devils revived their interest four years later after the dominant striker had continued to shine during a prolific, league-winning stint at Ewood Park, but could not prevent him from making a then world-record move to boyhood idols Newcastle United.

"I'd done the negotiations for Alan Shearer and again, I thought he was coming," Edwards added. "But Jack Walker was very adamant he wasn't coming to Manchester United. It was a case of 'over my dead body' but he allowed him to go to Newcastle."