While Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography generally concentrated on settling old scores rather than addressing issues involving current Manchester United players – out of respect to his successor, David Moyes – one of the most intriguing revelations referred to Wayne Rooney's transfer saga back in 2010.
Rooney was concerned Manchester United were not signing the world's best footballers, and specifically demanded to know why Ferguson had not purchased Mesut Özil that summer. Rooney had first-hand experience of Özil's quality, having been outshone by the playmaker during Germany's 4-1 thrashing of England at the 2010 World Cup, a match where Rooney and Özil were essentially playing the same role on opposing sides.
"Özil was not on our radar. I said that to Wayne at the time," wrote Ferguson. "When Özil was at Werder Bremen he played wide right initially, then they played him off the front. That type of player was not necessarily on our radar. I told Wayne, 'Leave the signing of players to me. We've got lots of them right.'" Yet various sources indicate Ferguson had, at the very least, a passing interest in signing the German. The week before the 2010-11 season started, he travelled to Craven Cottage to watch Özil's Werder Bremen play a friendly against Fulham. United faced the Cottagers a fortnight later – but Ferguson rarely made opposition scouting trips in his final years as manager and surely had his eye on Özil.
The German later joined Real Madrid for a fee in the region of €15m, an amazingly modest sum for one of the World Cup's star performers.
Regardless of whether United tried and failed, or simply did not try hard enough, there must be a sense of regret at Old Trafford that Özil did not join. No one has recorded more assists in Europe's five major leagues over the past half-decade and his versatility enables him to play on either wing comfortably, as well as in his favoured No10 role.
Last summer's purchase of Shinji Kagawa suggests Ferguson changed his mind regarding 'that type of player' being on his radar. Kagawa and Özil are similar: lightweight No10s that drift into clever positions, often appearing languid without possession, but capable of devastating efficiency on the counter-attack. Ferguson wanted a sophisticated, direct, selfless No10 – perhaps earmarking Rooney to play the centre-forward role, before the opportunity to sign Robin van Persie proved too good to refuse. Kagawa does not quite possess Özil's incisive passing skills but his role at Dortmund was very similar to Özil's at Real Madrid and the United playmaker is more lethal in front of goal.
Both thrive when given few defensive responsibilities – Özil is not the type of attacking midfielder who enjoys dropping deep into the midfield zone to assist his colleagues' attempts to win possession, while under Jürgen Klopp, Kagawa's role without possession was similarly limited. He dropped back on to an opposition holding midfielder, before springing past on the counter-attack to combine with his wingers, something Özil did excellently under Mourinho.
David Moyes has a potential Özil in his ranks – but to play Kagawa in his favoured role would probablymean dropping Rooney, an unlikely scenario until Kagawa impresses significantly out wide. That is difficult for Kagawa, because Moyes instructs his midfield quartet to drop back quickly, shielding the back four – the more Kagawa does this, the less space he is afforded to create.
Özil, however, would instantly command a place in the United side – Rooney would be the most obvious victim. With Rooney starting his 10th season at the club in fine form, perhaps he should be thankful United did not sign Özil after all.