Former United chairman Martin Edwards said in his newly released autobiography that he and then-chief executive Peter Kenyon met Wenger twice, once at the Frenchman’s house, to discuss replacing Ferguson after the latter announced he would retire in 2002.
Wenger, at the time, was on course to lead Arsenal to their second Premier League-and-FA Cup double in five years.
“He was my number one choice,” wrote Edwards, adding, “Wenger did show a little bit of interest, enough to want to meet Peter Kenyon and me at his house in London to listen to what we had to say.
“For a while we thought there was a possibility of him joining us. But he felt he had started something with Arsenal and that his attachment to the club was too great.”
Confirming Edwards’ recollection Wenger said he turned Manchester United down “because I love the values of this club and, for me, a club is about values first. You speak about Man United, the evolution in the last 20 years [there is] very interesting. A lot has changed, but when I came here this club was about values that I love in sport.
“So I always question myself. ‘Yes, of course, Man United is attractive but am I happy here?’ The answer was ‘yes’.” said Wenger.
Ferguson subsequently stayed, winning six more Premier League titles and the Champions League, before retiring in 2013.
Wenger has remained at Arsenal, but winning, after that 2001-02 season, only one more league title.