What Sir Alex Ferguson said after Paolo Di Canio turned down Man Utd move in 2001

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Paolo Di Canio bows out during the Tony Carr Testimonial match between the Academy All-Stars and West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground on May 05, 2010 in London, England
Photo: Jan Kruger/GETTY IMAGES

Paolo Di Canio has spoken about the time he was approached by legendary Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in 2001, but rejected the chance to move to Old Trafford.

The enigmatic Italian joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1997, but just over one year later, he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off, and was handed an 11-match ban.

After the incident, it appeared as though Di Canio's time in England would be over, but despite his actions, West Ham United signed him in January 1999.

In an interview with ​Sky Sports, the 51-year-old has revealed that he had the opportunity to join the Red Devils in 2001 when Ferguson gave him a call on Christmas Day in an attempt to seal a deal.

However, whilst he was very appreciative, Di Canio insisted that he wouldn't be able to leave a club that had handed him a lifeline "in the worst moment" in his life.

I thought it was a joke. I thought it was my friend from Italy.

My stomach went a bit because it makes you think you have underestimated yourself, that you are bigger than what you thought. Man Utd call you, try to persuade you to move because they want you. For a couple of minutes you feel big and strong.

It was strange for me to say no to Sir Alex. I said "thanks, 1000 times thanks, but I can't. ​West Ham are the family that warmed to me in the worst moment in my life, I'm the skipper, I can't."

He told me, "Paolo, respect for this, I love people that think in this way. You are the man that I thought you were".

In the end I remained at West Ham and I don't have regrets about it, even if United became the best, won the Champions League, winning the leagues. I would never change winning those leagues for the four and a half years I wore the West Ham shirt.

Di Canio spent eight years in England, playing for Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton Athletic before returning to Italy in 2004 with Lazio.

He spent the majority of his time in the Premier League playing for the Hammers, scoring 51 goals in 141 appearances in all competitions.

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