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I would have loved to play for Sir Alex Ferguson – Jermain Defoe

Ferguson, 76, remains in intensive care after undergoing emergency surgery on Saturday having suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Jermain Defoe is desperate for Sir Alex Ferguson to “pull through” and has revealed the extent to which he would have relished playing under the former manager following his interest in the striker 14 years ago.

Ferguson, 76, remains in intensive care in a Salford hospital after undergoing emergency surgery on Saturday having suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Bournemouth’s Defoe is one of many throughout the football world thinking of the Scot; of how Manchester United’s players spoke so highly of him and of how he once came so close to joining them.

Ferguson considered signing Defoe from West Ham in 2004, but the player instead went to Tottenham while Louis Saha joined United, and the 35-year-old revisited what might have been.

“I never played for him but I played against him many times – an icon all over the world,” Defoe told Press Association Sport.

“His record speaks for itself, and what he achieved at Manchester United. When I heard the news my heart dropped straight away; I want to wish him and the family all the best.

“I hope he pulls through – not so long ago he was presenting Arsene Wenger with that trophy. Away from that he’s a nice guy; he’s had amazing messages from people in football.

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Sir Alex Ferguson (left)

“There was interest, at the time I was young. When you’re young it’s nice to be linked with the biggest clubs in the world. They bought Saha; I remember a lot of the boys telling me when I’d go away with England, ‘I thought you were actually coming’.

“That would have been amazing, but I was young, and you get your head down and get on with it. As a manager, I’d have loved to have played for him. There’ll be many players that will say that, because he was the best.”

The England internationals then prominent at United include Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, and Phil and Gary Neville. Only Ferdinand was not a product of the club’s remarkable youth system under Ferguson, and it is Defoe’s memories of watching them succeed as they did that contributed to his admiration for the manager.

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Jermain Defoe (second right)

“I could stand here all day (and talk about him); even when I was kid, watching United dominate,” he said.

“He created something unique at the club, having a group of players from the youth team and bringing them through – and people saying ‘they’re too young, have no experience’ – and those players.

“Butt, Scholes, (David) Beckham, the Nevilles, what they achieved because of Sir Alex is amazing. When you listen to players talk about him – Rio – everyone loves him. A special manager, special person; you don’t get many people like that.”

:: Jermain Defoe was speaking at the JDF Cup, a junior charity football tournament hosted by The Jermain Defoe Foundation in aid of homeless and vulnerable children.

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