Sir Alex Ferguson-Rene Meulensteen
Sir Alex Ferguson preferred Eric Cantona over Zinedine Zidane at Manchester United Reuters

Sir Alex Ferguson "rejected the chance to sign Zinedine Zidane" because he preferred Eric Cantona in his position at Manchester United, according to former chairman Martin Edwards.

Edwards claims Ferguson was made aware of the young Frenchman during the mid-1990s, when Zidane was still with Bordeaux. However, he opted not to chase the signature of the 22-year-old who shortly afterwards spent five years at Juventus before joining Real Madrid in 2001.

Also read: Premier League urged to reschedule matches to be held on Christmas Eve

Edwards, 72, told the club's official website: "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 [Cantona] 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 [when Cantona was banned for eight months after clashing with a football fan at Selhurst Park in 1995], he felt that, if he had brought Zidane in, it may have affected Eric's position, so he stuck with Eric."

Edwards also said United had their eye on four England stars - John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer - but failed to sign any of them. The former, who was the chairman at Old Trafford between 1980 and 2002, added: "Paul Gascoigne (Newcastle) was certainly one."

"We thought he was coming but he decided to join Tottenham. I think there were certain last-minute inducements involved."

Edwards said he had done the negotiations for Alan Shearer and thought he was coming. But Jack Walker (Blackburn owner) was very adamant he wasn't coming to United.

"It was a case of 'over my dead body' but he allowed him to go to Newcastle," he said.

Gary Lineker (Leicester), was going to sign for Everton and his agent Jon Holmes rang Edwards on the day and said his first choice would be United, if the club wanted him.

"I put it to Ron (Atkinson, manager 1981-86) and he said: 'I've got four strikers already. The last thing we need is another striker.' So we passed on that one," Edwards said.

Sir Alex Ferguson passed on the opportunity of signing John Barnes because it was his first season as manager and he wanted to see whether Jesper Olsen would make it.