The former English midfielder, Paul Ince, reminisced about a pivotal moment when his transfer to Manchester United almost collapsed due to a failed medical examination.
Ince had been poised to make the move to Old Trafford following West Ham’s relegation to the second division in 1989. However, the transfer hit a snag at the last minute. To compound the issue, an administrative error transformed him from a hero to a villain in the eyes of West Ham fans.
After a series of personal discussions with Sir Alex Ferguson, the transfer was eventually secured. Ince posed in a Manchester United shirt in anticipation of his official presentation to the club’s fans. Unfortunately, a mix-up led to the premature publication of the image in the Daily Express, while he still had contractual obligations with West Ham.
Sharing this intriguing story on talkSPORT, Ince explained, “I posed in the Manchester United shirt in good faith, thinking that it could be in the papers once the deal was finalized. The image was in one of the media libraries when the newspapers were searching for a picture of me in a West Ham shirt. At that age, a footballer does what his agent instructs, and he follows the agent’s guidance on what will transpire. My agent assured me that the deal would be completed before I returned to West Ham.”
“I apologize for the consequences of that. Upon my return to West Ham, we played against Swindon. Half of the fans were singing that they wanted me to stay, while the other half chanted ‘leave.’ It made me contemplate whether I wanted to remain. Subsequently, it turned hostile, and my wife started receiving threatening messages. I made the decision to move forward. There comes a point when you have to say ‘enough,'” he continued.
“I trained, and Ronnie Boyce informed me that someone was waiting for me at the hotel. It felt like the director wanting to see you in school. Boyce took me to the hotel, and there was Sir Alex Ferguson sitting there. He was amazing. As a 19-year-old, arrogant West Ham kid, I didn’t comprehend the greatness of this man until I stood before him. But there he was, sitting with crossed legs, a plate, a spoon on the side… I thought, ‘Who is this cowboy?'” he further narrated.
Ince then disclosed that he did not pass the medical examination and had to return to West Ham, where he continued to face mistreatment from the fans. He added, “This made the situation ten times worse. I thought, ‘Oh my God, now I have to go back to West Ham.'”
“In tears, my wife was in tears. We had agreed to a six-year deal with Manchester United, but I failed the medical examination. I had to sit in the stands at West Ham. Then I received a phone call from Sir Alex Ferguson, and he said, ‘We don’t care if you have a small issue in the lower back area. We will make this happen.’ He kept his word,” Ince stated.
Ince went on to secure seven major trophies with Manchester United, including two Premier League titles and two FA Cup victories during his six-year tenure at Old Trafford. After that, he joined Inter in a £7.5 million transfer in 1995, but he returned to England after two years at San Siro.
Manchester United declined the opportunity to re-sign him, leading the midfielder to join their rivals, Liverpool. “I have always felt, and I have said it repeatedly, this is not a disrespect to both teams, but I would never go directly from Manchester United to Liverpool or from Liverpool straight to Manchester United. That’s a fundamental football sin. When I left for Inter, I didn’t want to leave Manchester United,” Ince explained.
“When I returned from Inter, Manchester United had the first refusal for me. I could have easily returned to Manchester United, but they declined the option to bring me back. I don’t know if I would have returned, but all I know is that I had two years at Inter, and there were three more years left on my contract. The family situation was evidently challenging, so we decided to come back,” he added.
Ince also played for Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton, Swindon, and Macclesfield before retiring in 2007. He is currently a football manager and spent a year at Reading before being dismissed in April.