Alex Henshall explains why he once walked out on Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 August 2014
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He'd been hailed as the next Ryan Giggs and was sitting in the board room at Old Trafford with pen in hand ready to sign for Manchester United - then Alex Henshall got up and walked out on Sir Alex Ferguson without explanation.
"My dad followed me out and said ‘what are you doing?’ I don’t know if it was a flash from the future or something, but something just came over me saying ‘don’t sign for Man United’"
He’d been hailed as the next Ryan Giggs and was sitting in the board room at Old Trafford with pen in hand ready to sign for Manchester United – then Alex Henshall got up and walked out on Sir Alex Ferguson without explanation.
A week later the 15-year-old signed for Manchester City.
Ipswich Town’s new boy, now 20, shakes his head and laughs as he reveals his incredible boyhood tale.
“I was getting quite involved with the Swindon first team when I was 15 and still at school,” explains the pacy left winger.
“I made the bench quite a few times, had a really good Milk Cup over in Ireland and suddenly had all these clubs coming in for me.
“I ended up in the Man United office and was ready to sign a contract, then something in my head just said ‘don’t do it’ – so I walked out.
“I rejected everybody else, Liverpool, Arsenal, and ended up signing for Man City a week later.”
It’s the sort of statement that needs clarification. So you actually walked out on Fergie?
“Yeah!” laughs Henshall. “I had the pen in my hand, everything. I just put it down on the table and walked out without saying anything. I was only a little kid and just didn’t know what to stay.
“My dad followed me out and said ‘what are you doing?’ I don’t know if it was a flash from the future or something, but something just came over me saying ‘don’t sign for Man United’.
“My mum and my agent were still in there. They must have stayed for about 20 minutes waiting for me to come back in. In the end dad walked back in and said ‘I think he’s had a change of heart’.
“I don’t know what came over me that day. I’ll always remember it though.”
And what did Ferguson say afterwards?
“Not much really. I’ve never seen him since then. I don’t think I’d want to see him after that!
“If I did see him I don’t know what I’d do, I really don’t know. He probably wouldn’t recognise me. He’d definitely remember the name though.”
He continued: “Derek Langley was the chief scout and I know he wasn’t very happy.
“People had made the inevitable comparisons with Ryan Giggs, but I didn’t want any of that. As a young kid you have to blank all that out.
“I’ve still got the same agent. He’s probably still thinking ‘what was he doing that day?!’”
“I’ve not really told many people this story actually.”
A week after that incident, after also rejecting offers from Liverpool and Arsenal, Henshall signed for Manchester City. Four years later, having never made the first team squad and gone out on loan to League Two clubs Bristol Rovers and Chesterfield, he was released.
Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy, sufficiently impressed with his brief loan spell at Portman Road towards the back end of last season, snapped Henshall up.
“I have no regrets whatsoever about going to Man City,” says the winger. “When (Roberto) Mancini was in charge I trained a lot with the first team, but as soon as (Manuel) Pellegrini came in all that changed – I got pushed out a bit.
“I knew it was always going to be very difficult to get anywhere near their first team because they can obviously go out and buy who they want.
“Jack Rodwell has just said he wouldn’t recommend any young player to go there (having just moved to Sunderland), I think when Adam Johnson made the same move he said the same thing.
“My four years there definitely improved me technically though. It’s not always nice having people like (Yaya) Toure running at you, but people like James Milner and Micah Richards helped me a lot.
“I knew it was my time to go last season because I wasn’t getting any further than I was.
“The gaffer and TC (Terry Connor) really helped me last year and I knew I wanted to come here permanently. I think they can turn me into a top Championship player, but I know I’ve got to work hard and take my opportunity.”
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