On Tuesday, Alessandro Del Piero celebrated his 47th birthday. Unsurprisingly, a host of fans, former teammates and rivals took the opportunity to praise the great Italian.

For this occasion, The Mirror decided to recall the words of the legendary Manchester United legend manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was desperate to bring the Juventus icon to Old Trafford back in his heyday.

The former striker had a great display against the Red Devils in the late nighties, rounding Gary Neville en route towards an unforgettable goal.

However, Del Piero refused the manager’s approach in favor of staying in Turin. Ferguson made another attempt amidst the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, but the answer remained the same.

“Del Piero is the only one who I would’ve gone mad for. After a match between United and Juventus, in which he destroyed half of our defense, Giggs and Neville came to me and asked me to buy him at all costs, because someone like him would’ve made us win everything for decades,” said the two-time Champions League winning manager.

“And so I contact the Juve representatives, and the lad’s agent. He refused even before listening to my proposal, telling me that Juve was the best place for him and, that while he respected Man United, he would never have been able to betray the black and white colors.

“A pity, because I never again saw someone like him. I courted him even just after Italy’s World Cup win [in 2006]. In that time, Real Madrid were also after him and, given the issues around Juventus at the time, I imagined that between us at United and the ‘galacticos’, there would be a fair auction to get him.

“And so I called him directly: ‘Alex, I’d like you at United’, I said. ‘You’ll be the star of the squad, and together we’ll win everything’. He laughed and replied: ‘Sir, you know that nothing has changed from all those years ago. Juve are facing difficult times, and I have to help them. I can’t be a coward’.

“In 2008, I saw him again and he greeted me with a hug. He apologized for refusing my offer. I put my hand on his shoulder and re-assured him, ‘you wanted to save Juventus, and you did it’. When someone asks me what player I always wanted to train, but never got the chance, I always say: Alessandro Del Piero.”

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Throughout more than two decades of service, Ferguson had trained some of the biggest names in the sport at United, including the likes of David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo just to name a few.

Therefore, it’s incredible to know that the one player that he truly wanted was Del Piero.

Although the Italian repeatedly refused the call in favor of sticking by his beloved Juventus, Fergie’s respect for him surely grew even further.