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Sep 22, 2011

Fergie's personal touch captured duo

Sir Alex Ferguson's personal intervention halted Chris Smalling and Phil Jones's potential moves to Arsenal this summer, causing them to sign for Manchester United.

• Ferdinand in line for Stoke return
• Pallister on Man Utd's defence

Smalling and Jones have enjoyed rave reviews for their performances at Old Trafford and have been tipped to become the first-choice central defensive partnership at club and international level in the future.

However, a source close to the transfers revealed that both could easily have joined the Gunners if Ferguson had not stepped in.

"Arsenal must be regretting what happened to them over Smalling and Jones, and all credit to Sir Alex the way he went about landing them,'' he revealed. "It's common knowledge that Smalling and Jones were wanted by Arsenal, but the way Sir Alex went about persuading them to go to United is something that Arsenal can only guess at.

''Arsenal had agreed to sign Smalling from Fulham and Smalling had agreed to go to Arsenal. Then Sir Alex stepped in. He came down to the Tottenham v Fulham FA Cup replay and, in the car park, it was agreed that Smalling would first talk to Sir Alex. He was in no mood to let Smalling out of his sights until he had agreed to go to United, and that is what happened.''

Jones, too, was linked with the Gunners, although United were always favourites to land the talented defender from Blackburn.

"Phil Jones put out on Twitter that he had agreed to go to Manchester United in March, and quickly took it off, because he was talking to Arsenal as well as Liverpool and Chelsea,'' the source added.

"The clear inference is that Phil Jones knew where he was going and made up his mind where he was going no matter what Blackburn wanted to do and how much they were trying to get more money for him.''

Ferguson has shown himself adept at stealing players from under his rivals' noses in the past, famously infuriating then-Blackburn boss Kenny Dalglish when he persuaded Roy Keane to join United, despite the midfielder having already agreed in principle to move to Rovers from Nottingham Forest.

• Catch action from every Barclays Premier League match on your mobile for FREE on the enhanced ESPN Goals app (UK only).

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