Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has revealed for the first time the reason why he failed to sign Michael Essien insisting stringent English work permit regulation prevented him from signing the Ghanaian international as a child.
In a question put to him by Ghanasoccernet.com at a forum at the Aspire4Sport conference taking place in the Qatari capital Doha, Ferguson insisted he is keen on African players
Essien was on trials at the English giants in 1999 after excelling for the Black Â Â Starlets at the U17 World Cup but his failure to clinch the United deal led to his move to French side Bastia before.
Essien excelled at Bastia before being signed by Lyon who sold him to Chelsea and the Ghanaian has now become one of the best midfielders in the world.
Ferguson has failed to land the best African player as experiments with Cameroonian Eric Djemba Djemba and South Africaâ€™s Quinton Fortune failed to reap any yields.
The Manchester United boss insists he is keen on African players and his failure to sign Essien was because of the British governmentâ€™s regulations on work permits for foreign players.
"Essien was 17 and it was difficult to get a work permit for him. Also, he had no European passport so we had to let him go," Ferguson said in a question put to him by Ghanasoccernet.com
"Lyon always wanted the best buyers for their players and Chelsea gave the best offer. So he(Essien) joined Chelsea."
Reacting to suggestions that he is no fan of African players, Ferguson maintained that his selection of players was independent of their race or nationality.
"We had Djemba Djemba (Cameroon) and Quinton Fortune (South Africa), but Fortune had a lot of injuries.
"I have nothing against African players. We need footballers and I don't care where they come from. If they have the quality, we will take them."
Ghanasoccernet.com in Doha, Qatar