‘I should have gone to Manchester United’: Emmanuel Petit’s transfer regret
Emmanuel Petit

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Emmanuel Petit is an Arsenal legend, part of the first wave of Arsene Wenger’s signings in 1997 that transformed the Gunners into Premier League champions and Manchester United’s closest challengers. 

After three successful seasons at Highbury, where he became an integral member of Wenger’s team in the centre of midfield alongside Patrick Vieira, Petit left for Barcelona in 2000. Sold for £7 million, Petit lasted just a single season in Spain before being linked with a move back to England. 

Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea all interested in buying the Frenchman, with Arsenal also making contact in an attempt to re-sign him.  

Petit eventually opted for Chelsea, though, something he tells FourFourTwo he later regretted.

“I had many clubs interested in taking me back to England [in 2001],” Petit tells FFT. Arsenal approached me but so did Manchester United.

“I spoke to Arsene. He really wanted me back, but I was honest with him: I said, ‘I appreciate it and it’s very tempting, but I didn’t feel that you wanted me to stay when I signed for Barcelona a year ago’. It’s like divorcing somebody: when you don’t feel desired by them, what’s the point of going back?

“I should have gone to Manchester United, because Sir Alex Ferguson called me twice. We had a very good conversation and it was tempting, but once again I listened to my wife. She wanted to go back to London – she didn’t want to live in Manchester – so I made the same mistake twice in one year.”

Petit was left to rue his decision when Arsenal went onto win the Premier League title at the end of the 2001/02 season, with his Chelsea side also beaten by the Gunners in the FA Cup final. 

Trophies weren’t forthcoming at Stamford Bridge, while Manchester United picked up another Premier League title and FA Cup trophy before his retirement in the summer of 2004. 

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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture’s websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future. 

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