Sir Alex Ferguson believed he’d got his man – although his man was barely a man at just 17 years old.
Aaron Ramsey, at the time, was one of the most promising teenagers in the world, a midfielder seemingly destined to follow in the footsteps of true greats. It wasn’t much of a surprise then that the Manchester United boss was so keen on the Welshman.
Back in 2008, United were champions, a club on the brink of their third European Cup triumph.
That summer, Ferguson had one eye on the future, adding talented youngsters Anderson and Nani to a squad that was already the strongest in England, maybe even Europe. Ramsey, as he saw it, would be another signing for the long term.
On June 3, 2008, Man Utd issued a statement announcing that a fee for the transfer of the midfielder had been agreed with Cardiff City, but within 10 days he was an Arsenal player, choosing Arsene Wenger’s offer over the Old Trafford club’s.
“I flew over to see the boss and I knew straight away that this was where I wanted to be,” Ramsey explained. “I wanted to be in his plans and I was just buzzing. As soon as I came in on the first day I was a bit starstruck with all the faces there, some of the biggest players in world football.”
Now, 10 years later, Ramsey’s Arsenal career appears to be as good as over. His contract is up at the end of the season and the Gunners have made it clear that it won’t be renewed as long as the Welshman’s demands remain the same.
Unless there is a dramatic reversal of Arsenal’s stance, Ramsey will depart the Emirates either in January or next summer, with team he spurned a decade ago reported to be among the clubs interested in a cut-price deal.
Maybe this time, 10 years after they first targeted Ramsey, United will get their man. But should the 27-year-old finally pitch up at Old Trafford, it would only underline how he has largely failed to make the most of the potential that once marked him out at Cardiff City. Ramsey should be coming into his peak years right now, but instead his career so far has been a wasted one.
Ramsey has never been the most natural of fits for Arsenal. He is a midfielder defined by his energy, his physical attributes, rather than his technical ability. This went against the grain of the Gunners’ identity through the latter Arsene Wenger years. Arsenal were a team who played with the ball at their feet, often to their detriment. Ramsey was a stylistic misfit.