Next morning, Jim Lawlor and Tom Vernon come in a bag full of files, colour-coded according to nation, region and quality of prospect. To my surprise, Sir Alex had already instructed them to scout according to my preference, before he left, and so all the youth players were put into the highest priority file - bright red. On opening the file, I saw the very first player that would add something to the squad:
This obviously would never happened. Mikel had snubbed the club once four years ago, and there was no way he would wear United colours after that. This could've simply been a test by the scouting team to check if I knew enough about our club.
Lille had just lost Hazard to Chelsea, who was arguably their best player, which was followed by the departures of Mathieu Debuchy and Rio Mavuba to Real Madrid and Tottenham respectively. They wouldn't be too keen on selling yet another promising youngster. This signing was a long shot, but Digne would provide the club with some security at lef-back after the retirement of vice-captain Patrice Evra, which is inevitably coming soon.
Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley
These two Everton midfielders are very heavily priced and will not be available for less than £20 Million individually. On seeing the possible price tag, I questioned the head scouts about our budget, saying, "How much have we got to spend though?
Jim Lawlor replied cautiously, "Well, that is one thing the owners of the club and David Gill decide. The representatives of the Glazers are due to come to Manchester any day now..
". Lawlor's statement was completely by his fellow scout, Tom Vernon. "..but there should be around £40 Million to spend, at least, that's what Sir Alex was promised before he left."
Just as Vernon finished off his sentence, a series of knocks are heard on the door. Erratic, loud and still very much Spanish, 41-year old Antonio Lopez comes into the room with his suitcase and camera still in his hands, directly from Brazil.
"We have to move in on a player from Brazil. Young, fast and most importantly, his team wants to offload him as he is destroying their finances because of his goal scoring bonus."
, said Lopez, to which I replied, "I'm sorry, Antonio, but we need to see some tapes of him and make a collective decision on whether or not he is consistent over a period of time, and also how much he can improve in the future.
Lopez, in his Spanish accent, continued, "But sir, you must know that this player comes as a direct recommendation of Sir Alex Ferguson. He is the one who sent me to Brazil to monitor this player's training and performances. I have got all the tapes you would want of him, but I suggest you act quickly."
I motioned for him to put one of the tapes on and the four of us spent the next two hours scribbling down pros and cons, what he needs to improve upon, but we all knew we were going to make a transfer offer for the Brazilian youngster, Cidinho.