Why Manchester United Turned Down Petr Cech Signing


Hamish Woodward

Why Manchester United Turned Down Petr Cech Signing

Petr Cech became one of the best goalkeepers of all time at Chelsea, but he almost made the move to Manchester United in 2003.

Sir Alex Ferguson turned down the chance to sign Petr Čech in 2003, despite him being one of the most promising young goalkeepers in Europe.

The Czech International was said to be close to joining The Rwd Devils at the time, and despite interest from all the top sides, United were in prime position to sign Petr Cech.

However, Ferguson made the call to reject Petr Cech, instead signing United States international Tim Howard from New York Red Bulls (then known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars).

Ferguson later wrote in his book, Leading, that he turned down the chance to sign the young keeper from French side Rennes, thinking he was too young to command a defence in the Premier League.

“I went to see him in 2003 for Rennes,” Ferguson wrote in Leading. “We thought Petr was a bit young for the bruisers of the Premier League. He was 19 at the time and I said to myself, ‘He’s too young’.

As history showed, Ferguson was wrong. Cech went on to join Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, being part of his summer of big money signings, following appointment at the club.

Mourinho had just won the Champions League with Porto, bringing parts of that defence to Chelsea with him. Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira formed part of an incredible Chelsea defence, although it was Petr Cech who staked his claim as the number 1.

Chelsea’s defence in the 2004/05 season formed the greatest defence in Premier League history. Backed by Petr Cech in goal, they conceded on 15 goals all season, with the likes John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho helping keep this incredible record.

This showed Sir Alex Ferguson that he made a mistake, with Manchester United rotating through a number of goalkeepers, before finally settling on Edwin Van Der Sar in 2007.

He later used this as a learning opportunity, and made the decision to sign a young David De Gea in 2011 based on his previous mistake in not signing Petr Cech.

“So age doesn’t matter when you have the ability of a goalkeeper like Petr Cech or, we know, David de Gea has.”

Petr Cech went on to become a legend in the Premier League, starring for both Chelsea and Arsenal in a trophy-laden career.

The former Czech International secured 202 clean sheets during his time in England, 32 more than David James managed in the Premier League.

He also won four Premier League titles, five FA Cups and one Champions League title, amid a host of individual records he achieved under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

Petr Cech also popularised the scrum cap in football – a necessary choice that gave him an iconic look in football. He was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2023, further showing just how big a mistake Manchester United made not signing him in 2003.

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