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What If Stuart Pearce Had Signed For United?

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“This is a club built for heroes like him”. Those words were once uttered by Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 1989 about the then Nottingham Forest left-back, Stuart Pearce, who he desperately wanted to sign for Manchester United.

During his career Pearce played for non-league Wealdstone, Coventry, Forest, Newcastle, West Ham and Man City, and also played 78 times for England. 

However it could have been so much different had Brian Clough allowed him to go to Old Trafford; it is documented Sir Alex went to the City Ground to speak to Clough in regards to thrashing out a deal for Pearce but the Forest boss hid in his office, refusing to talk to him.

On the plus side, United would have got a player who gave everything on the pitch; a born leader who, in 14 seasons, played 746 games and scored 83 goals. Many say he underachieved because of his loyalty to Forest; just 2 League Cup wins on his honours board to show for it, but Pearce was the type of player who could have fitted in very easily at Old Trafford, and the club’s history would have taken on a different path.

The ‘what if’ factor could easily apply to the players that were given the chance to fill the left-back spot instead of Pearce. Players like Lee Martin who likely wouldn’t have played in that FA Cup final replay of 1990, and wouldn’t have chested down a Neil Webb pass to smash the ball home and win the cup, enabling United to enter the Cup-Winners Cup and beat Barcelona 2-1 in Rotterdam a year later.

Ferguson then probably would not have signed Irishman Denis Irwin from Oldham, who caught the eye of the United boss in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final. The free kick specialist who played 368 times for the club and scored 22 goals, winning 7 League titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 Champions League medal and 1 Cup-Winners Cup medal. The man of which Sir Alex once said that he was his greatest ever signing.

Irwin and Pearce were two different types of players; Irwin the quiet defender who got on with the job, and Pearce the loud, passionate, very vocal player who let attackers know he was around. As much as I liked Pearce’s leadership qualities, given what Irwin achieved with the club, it’s a foregone conclusion as to which I’d rather have.

By Jay @Jarisleif