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Arsene Wenger turned down Man United in 2001 - Martin Edwards

Arsene Wenger turned down the chance to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 2001, ex-Red Devils chairman Martin Edwards has said.

Edwards, who served as United chairman from 1980 until 2002, says club officials quickly identified Wenger as their top candidate after Ferguson announced in May 2001 that he would step down as manager the following year.

Ferguson eventually changed his mind and stayed on until 2013 -- but not before Wenger is said to have turned down United's approach.

"Once we realised that [Ferguson] was very serious about it [quitting] and that his mind was made up, there were lots of discussions at board level about a possible replacement," Edwards told GQ magazine

"Our first choice was Arsene Wenger. [At] the time we all thought he was the best candidate to replace Alex. Certainly he was my No. 1 choice."

Wenger took charge at Arsenal in 1996 and prior to United's approach he had led the club to the Premier League and FA Cup double in 1998.

Arsene Wenger was a target as Manchester United sought a replacement for Alex Ferguson in 2002.

Edwards said he and chief executive Peter Kenyon met with Wenger at his home in London to convince him to make the move to Manchester but were ultimately rebuffed.

"In fact, we had a couple of meetings with him and for a while we thought there was a possibility of him joining us," Edwards said. "But I think Wenger felt a loyalty towards [then-Arsenal vice-chairman] David Dein. He was very close to David, and that was the reason he gave us in the end for turning down United.

"He felt that he had started something with Arsenal and that his attachment to the club was too great, he didn't want to break that bond."

Wenger has said on several occasions over the years that he has rejected many offers from top clubs over the course of his Arsenal tenure. 

He resisted calls from fans to step down after winning his sixth FA Cup title in May, signing a new two-year deal with the Gunners.

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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