Manchester United Wanted To Sign Him – Legendary Former Goalkeeper On Oman International
Oct. 12, 2019
Goalkeeping legend John Burridge has revealed that Manchester United wanted to sign Oman goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi but they could not get a work permit for him.
Burridge discovered the young Al-Habsi during his coaching stint in Oman and mentored him ahead of trying to get him a move to the Premier League in the early 2000s.
The former goalkeeper revealed that he directly got in touch with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and recommended Al-Habsi to the Scotsman.
Burridge had to wait to get in touch with Ferguson, but the then Manchester United manager returned his call and he told him about the goalkeeping prospect he had unearthed.
The former goalkeeper covered Al-Habsi's air fare to England, while Manchester United paid for his hotel.
“It was strange when I rang up Carrington. I had a lady on the phone and I said: ‘My name’s John Burridge, I played football in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.’ She didn’t know me. She says: ‘Give me a minute.’
“Another lady comes on, she didn’t know who I was either. I said: ‘I need to speak to Alex, please. Just tell him it’s Budgie, here’s my number.’ She says: ‘That’s a strange number. Where’s Oman?’
“A couple of hours later and Alex rang. He said: ‘What do you want, Budgie?’
"‘I’ve got a goalie for you, Alex.’
"‘How big is he?’
"‘He’s six-foot, five.’
"‘Is he as crazy as you?’
"‘He’s more crazy than me, Alex.’
Manchester City also could not solve the work permit issue despite wanting to sign him and eventually then Bolton boss Sam Allardyce advised Burridge to take Al-Habsi to Norway on a loan spell before the Trotters managed to obtain a work permit.
Al-Habsi went on to play for Bolton, Wigan, Brighton and Reading in England and is currently at West Brom.
"I took him to Kevin Keegan around the corner at Manchester City. He wanted to sign him. Couldn’t get a work permit.
“I took him to Sam Allardyce at Bolton and he said: ‘Budgie if Manchester United can’t get a work permit and Manchester City can’t, I can’t get a work permit.
“But he said: ‘What I’ll do is pay $5,000 every week, his salary, and we’ll send him to Norway.
"If he’s the best goalkeeper in Norway, we’ll get the work permit.’ I said: ‘Okay, Sam.’
“We sent him to Lyn Oslo and he was the best goalkeeper in Norway for two years. He came to England and got a work permit.
"I wouldn’t give in. He’s a very good goalkeeper.”
Al-Habsi has made a combined 225 appearances in the Premier League and the Championship since arriving in England.