‘The entire deal, done on a f****** sunbed’: The bizarre transfer request which cost Manchester United their top target

The legendary Manchester United boss, desperate to recruit the raw, exciting talent, was immediately given assurances by Gascoigne that he would sign.

But that sunny retreat didnt go entirely as planned for Ferguson.

Ferguson would soon read the news that Gascoigne had agreed on a move to Tottenham Hotspur for a record British fee of 2.2million, breaking the agreement the pair had verbally reached.

Gascoigne would go on to achieve a glittering career, and while his off-the-field antics have always dominated headlines, hes undoubtedly one of Englands greatest-ever footballing products.

Technically immaculate, flair and vision in abundance and an incredible knack of being able to score breathtaking goals – Gascoigne was a trailblazer.

Its hard to argue theres ever been an English player in the mould of Gascoigne since and, quite simply, United missed out on a generational talent when Spurs swooped for his signature.

The trophy cabinet at Old Trafford suggests United weren&apost inconvenienced by Gascoigne&aposs decision, but its certainly interesting to ponder what could have been if that sunbed wasnt offered.

Yes, really. Gascoigne&aposs move to United fell through because of a sunbed.

Not long after arriving from Aberdeen, Ferguson was searching the transfer market for suitable additions that would help build him rebuild Manchester United.

It was 1987 and Fergusons United were up against Newcastle in the top flight, when one youngster made a mockery of his side. It was Paul Gascoigne.

“When Newcastle were bobbing above the relegation zone, we played them and my three central midfielders that day were Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and Remi Moses, all great footballers, Ferguson recalled.

He [Gascoigne] just tore them apart. When he nutmegged Moses and patted him on the head, I was out of the dugout shouting, &aposGet that f****** so-and-so!&apos Robbo and Whiteside were chasing him up and down the pitch, and they couldn&apost get near him.

Gascoigne&aposs brilliance on the pitch was hard to ignore, he was doing things with the ball that George Best and Diego Maradona had done before him. His style demanded attention.

Fuelled with a diet of Mars bars and Brown Ale, Gascoigne wasnt exactly your conventional athlete, though, even in the years in which sports science hadnt entered the professional game.

This didnt prevent Gascoigne from swiftly building a reputation on the pitch – after just a few seasons with Newcastle – as one of Englands most exciting young talents.

People in the game started talking about this young man that had something a little bit special, Gary Lineker explained in 2015.

He was a precocious young talent, a kid that would do things, that would take people on, that would beat people, and had an unbelievable natural talent.

He would become known by the name of Gazza to the wider footballing world and was duly named PFA Young Player of the Year and listed in the PFA Team of the Year in the 1987/88 season.

However, with his hometown club Newcastle enduring a turbulent campaign, Gascoigne would soon leave the North East for pastures new in the summer window.

I want to be successful and that means leaving, Gascoigne told a local newspaper just before his Newcastle exit. I feel it would also do me a power of good to physically leave the area. The pressures have been getting to me.

There was no lack of potential suitors for Gascoigne&aposs signature, and Ferguson was one of many admirers, knowing that it would be a coup to lure Gascoigne to United.

First up, I spoke to Kenny Dalglish about going to Liverpool, but I could not understand a word he said, a Geordie speaking to a Scouser did not go down well, Gascoigne explained years later.

The whole country was interested in signing the young lad from Dunston, although Fergusons call to Gascoigne to sell him the move to United was more persuasive than others, including Dalglishs.

We spoke to him the night before I went on holiday, explained Ferguson. He said, Go and enjoy yourself Mr Ferguson, I&aposll be signing for Manchester United&apos.”

It seemed United had beaten the competition for Gascoignes signature with Ferguson offered assurances by the player that his decision to join the Reds was final.

However, with Ferguson on the continent, Gascoigne would have a sudden change of heart when Spurs made a late attempt to bring him to White Hart Lane.

He went on holiday and I was driving to Old Trafford. The phone went, and it was [former Tottenham chairman] Irving Scholar, Gascoigne reflected.

He asked what I wanted in my contract and I asked for a nice house for my family. I rang my dad up and said &aposSpurs have offered a house&apos and he said &aposwhat are you waiting for?&apos

I rang back and said my dad would like a car, a white BMW with a private reg on and they said &aposconsider it done&apos.

With Spurs making a late move to secure Gascoigne from under Uniteds nose, the youngster couldnt help but think about the move he had already verbally agreed. I was going off the motorway to Spurs and panicking about letting Sir Alex down.

But the phone rang again and it was my sister. She said &aposIf mam&aposs getting a house and dad&aposs getting a car, I want a sunbed&apos. Irving said &aposconsider it done… just get here&apos.

It was my family&aposs fault, honestly, Gascoigne has since insisted.

Tottenham signed Gascoigne for a record British fee of 2.2million with the entire deal, done on a f****** sunbed, according to the man himself years later.

Ferguson was so aggrieved at Gascoigne&aposs snub that he sent him a letter calling him a silly boy while also lamenting him for turning down the biggest club in the world.

The PFA Player of the Season swapped Newcastle for London and would help Spurs to sixth in the first division in his first season at the club, scoring seven goals.

His star quality guaranteed him a place in England&aposs 1990 World Cup squad, although when Gascoigne returned from Italia 90, he was a household name.

Gascoigne was instrumental in England reaching their first World Cup semi-finals away from home soil, and his skill and personality captured the nation&aposs hearts throughout that tournament.

The romanticism around Italia &apos90 has since survived decades, and Gascoigne has been key to that, playing a pivotal role in providing fans with a summer of highs and lows that they never forgot.

Although Englands World Cup exit in Italy sent the country into mourning, the players were welcomed home as heroes by the adoring public, and Gascoigne was now a footballing superstar.

Things just got better for Gascoigne after that tournament, and his goals in the 1990/91 FA Cup campaign single-handedly dragged Spurs to the final.

It was Gascoignes first final, an occasion to be remembered, but the day would end in tragedy when the playmaker tore the ligaments in his right knee, recklessly attempting to tackle an opponent.

He was ruled out of football for over a year, and that granted him the opportunity to shy away from the pressure he had previously struggled with.

It would undoubtedly play a part in Gascogines downward spiral, though, as the midfielder had thrived when playing football, using it as an escape from his off-field issues.

Regardless of his demons, Gascoigne enjoyed a sensational career, winning the FA Cup with Spurs, winning the treble with Rangers, while playing 57 times for England.

Thats without mentioning Gascoigne became a cult hero at Lazio, and can also lay claim to arguably scoring one of the greatest goals – against Scotland – Wembley has ever seen.

Part of his genius, part of his magnificence, is the fact that he was so vulnerable, Lineker has said about Gascoigne.

His habits of alcohol, drugs and gambling were never secrets. The Italia &apos90 hero was a troubled star, which begs the question – would Gascoigne have taken a different path in life if he joined Manchester United?

Losing out on him was the biggest disappointment of all, and he admits it was a mistake. Moving down to London cant be easy for any 19-year-old lad, Ferguson explained in 2008.

We could have taken London out the road of him. We had Bobby Charlton, a Geordie. We had Bryan Robson, a Geordie. We had a structure of players who could have helped him given him some discipline.

Ferguson has always suggested Gascoigne may have resisted certain temptations if he had signed for United, but what does the man himself think? His answer has changed over time.

It was a massive missed opportunity, Gascoigne admitted, speaking in 2013. Obviously I worked with a great manager in Terry Venables, dont get me wrong.

I just think about the players around my age when I had the chance to sign for [United] and what theyve achieved.

Its not just on the field, but off the field as well. [Fergie] doesnt just work with them at the club, he works with them when theyre not at the club.

While Gascoigne clearly felt the same way as Ferguson eight years ago, its interesting his view on the subject has now changed.

Alex Ferguson says it would have been different if I had signed for Man United, Gasgoine said, speaking in 2020. Well, Rio Ferdinand did a runner from a drugs test and Eric Cantona two-footed someone in the neck in the stand. ****** hell, man.

The colourful language used was typical of Gascoigne, although it was surprising to see him contradict his original stance on the matter and therefore Its hard to know which version he truly believes.

It is worth noting, Gascoignes former Spurs and England teammate Chris Waddle admitted he doesnt think a move to Old Trafford would have worked, either.

I think maybe Sir Alex with his iron fist, I dont think Gazza would have enjoyed that. Gazza wouldnt have enjoyed being bullied and intimidated at times, Waddle said, speaking on a podcast in 2019.

Alex Ferguson could have been the manager that Gazza needed. But with Gazza, he got on better with managers who were a little bit more laid back.