SIR ALEX FERGUSON’S biggest regret as Manchester boss was failing to recruit Karim Benzema, according to Rio Ferdinand.
A young Benzema caught Fergie’s eye whilst leading Lyon’s attack when they faced United in the 2008 edition of the Champions League.
Benzema was just 21 back then, but he became Fergie’s No.1 transfer target after scoring a sublime, one-touch strike against the Red Devils.
Fergie was so besotted with Benzema that he had to be PULLED away from him by Lyon’s officials when the game concluded.
But the Scottish legend was beaten to the punch by European rivals Real Madrid who Benzema joined in 2009.
And according to ex-Red Devils defender Ferdinand, missing out on the Madrid maverick was the biggest regret of his former United boss’ tenure at Old Trafford.
Ferdinand made the revelation after watching Benzema crush Chelsea’s Champions League hopes by scoring Los Blancos’ late winner in the gripping 5-4 aggregate victory.
The now 37-year-old also snagged a hat-trick in the first leg of the tie to the horror of Blues fans.
And after witnessing Benzema’s heroics, Ferdinand said: “The first time I played against him was 2008, and that was the first time I had seen him up close and personal.
“If you see the goal he scored against us, look how many players are around him, but all he needed was one touch, it was all one motion.
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“I remember coming off the pitch and Sir Alex Ferguson said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m trying to get him’.”
Ferdinand feels that Benzema’s African heritage coupled with Real’s stature was the reason why he chose to snub Fergie for a move to Madrid.
Ferdinand added: “But with his African connections, and how influential Real Madrid were, he chose them.
“I think looking back, Sir Alex will believe that is one of his biggest regrets not getting him to sign for the club.”
Fergie used a similar ploy to sign Benzema’s ex-Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon when he was still a spring chicken in 2003.
Ronaldo’s second spell with United since returning to the club last summer hasn’t been as rosy as the first.
But he proved his worth once again on Saturday by scoring a hat-trick in United’s 3-2 win over Norwich, keeping United’s hopes of landing a Champions League spot alive.