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Ferdinand: I watch Robben play and think 'If only...'

ESPN staff
June 22, 2014 « Nigeria and Iran could be forced to draw lots | WILL TEST Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Arjen Robben has been the 'outstanding player' of the World Cup, according to Rio Ferdinand © Getty Images
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Rio Ferdinand says Arjen Robben "should have been a Manchester United player".

The former Old Trafford captain believes Robben has been the standout player of this year's World Cup so far, with three goals in two appearances to help Louis van Gaal's side into the round of 16.

And, in his Mail on Sunday column, Ferdinand wrote he still rues United's failure to sign him a decade ago, when the winger moved to Chelsea.

"Arjen Robben has been the outstanding player of the tournament for me so far, and not for the first time I've being thinking 'If only...' about the missed opportunity Manchester United had to sign him when he was young.

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"He should have been a United player. He would have fitted in. He had a brilliant breakthrough season with PSV in 2002-03, a campaign in which he turned 19, and Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him."

Robben had been expected to move to United in 2004 and his father, Hans, had told the Sunday Mirror in January that year: "My son will not go to Chelsea. Over my dead body will he go there. Old Trafford is the only place he wants to play and if he can't play there he would rather stay at PSV. In fact he would rather play in their reserves than go to Chelsea."

However, the Dutchman did move to Stamford Bridge that summer and in June said that United "weren't as persuasive", adding: "Chelsea are on the rise. I feel that maybe Manchester United's best years are now behind them."

Ferdinand, though, believes that the move fell through because Ferguson refused to meet PSV's asking price.

"United made a bid of something around £5 million, and Sir Alex was always determined he wouldn't over-pay for any player," he wrote. "When that was rejected, Chelsea paid something like £12m."

Ferdinand also revealed that he had met up with Robben, Nigel de Jong and former United team-mate Robin van Persie in recent days and that the Bayern Munich man's international colleagues were "waxing lyrical about his stats".

The former England centre-back feels Robben can enjoy a successful summer under new United boss Van Gaal this summer.

"The whole Dutch squad seem extraordinarily positive," he said. "The difference in RVP, who often wasn't happy last season, is amazing. They believe in their manager, Louis van Gaal. If he tells them the sun is black and the grass is blue, they believe it!

"Ruud Gullit was telling me how much fun they're having too - and it's down to their manager. I've often felt Robben was one who got away from United, and never more than now."

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