ALEX FERGUSON shook hands on a “concrete” agreement to become Tottenham boss two years before he took over at Old Trafford.
But the Scot left Spurs and chairman Irving Scholar in the lurch by going back on the deal.
White Hart Lane fans were up in arms at the popular manager Keith Burkinshaw being forced out.
After all, they had just won the Uefa Cup and lifted the FA Cup twice in the previous three seasons.
But lifelong Spurs fan Scholar believed he had already lined up the man who could take the club on.
Alex Ferguson shook up the natural order of things in Scotland, halting the domination of Rangers and Celtic with his Aberdeen side that also beat Real Madrid to win the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983.
And in the new book ‘White Hart Lane — The Spurs Glory Years’ author Martin Lipton explains how Scholar firmly believed he had recruited the man who went on to become English football’s greatest manager in 27 years at Old Trafford.
Scholar revealed: “The truth was that I had been talking to and negotiating with Alex Ferguson about a deal. He and I had had very long and detailed discussions.
“I told him that I was a very old-fashioned type of chap and that the most important thing was that once you agree something, once you shake someone’s hand, it’s in concrete.
“Once you do that, then you do not — under any circumstances whatsoever — you do not go back on it. It’s over.
“I told him that, when I first met him. So we had this big thing about the handshake.”
By May of that year, Scholar felt it was almost a done deal.
Ferguson’s own recollections are that Spurs were not prepared to give him the five-year contract he wanted to burn his bridges at Aberdeen – but Scholar was convinced he had got his man.
He was sure Ferguson believed he had outgrown the potential of the Pittodrie side and was ready to take on a bigger challenge.
And that Fergie recognised Tottenham’s Scottish heritage — starting with the club’s first successful managers John Cameron and Peter ‘The Great’ McWilliam in the early 1900s and on through key members of Bill Nicholson’s 1961 Double-winning side Bill Brown, John White and, of course, the barrel-chested Dave Mackay.
Scholar, a property tycoon who took control of Tottenham in 1982, added: “We went on and on and on, discussions, negotiations, down to the minutiae of the contract.
“Everything was agreed. So I said ‘Can we meet?’.
“He agreed and I said I’d like him to meet someone else on the board, Paul Bobroff. We arranged to meet in Paris on a Sunday morning, just by the airport.
“The idea was this was the moment, the seminal moment of the handshake.
“We’d built up to this for weeks. So we met. I said, ‘Are you ready?’. He replied, ‘I’m ready’.
BET £10 GET A FREE £30 BET WITH SUN BETS
“I said, ‘Are you sure you’re ready?’. He said, ‘I’m sure’.
“So we had this seminal moment of the handshake. As you know, unfortunately, he didn’t keep to it.
“He never told me why. I had my own theories but it doesn’t matter anymore.
“It was a disappointment. He stayed at Aberdeen for another two years.
For Spurs and United fans it was a ‘sliding doors’ moment.
Within four years of Fergie leaving Aberdeen for Old Trafford in 1986, United had begun their two decades of dominance.
And by the time he retired in 2013, Spurs had hired and fired managers 15 times.
It will always be a case of what might have been.
White Hart Lane: The Spurs Glory Years 1899-2017 by Martin Lipton, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, is out now. Order your copy here.