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Premier League • England

‘Scared’ Arsenal legend reveals he twice turned down Man Utd move

Rob McCarthy

Arsenal legend Tony Adams has revealed that he twice turned down the chance to join Manchester United during his legendary 19-year career in north London.

Adams came through the club’s academy and spent his entire playing career at Highbury from 1983 to 2002. The England centre-back made 669 appearances in all for the club, second only to David O’Leary in games played for the Gunners.

He was also captain of the club for 14 years, helping them win 10 major trophies in that time. Adams also played under two iconic managers in George Graham and Arsene Wenger.

However, things could have been different for the imposing defender had Adams agreed to join United – an opportunity that actually popped up twice.

“The first [offer] was in 1990 and I was too young and too scared off the pitch,” Adams revealed

“I was a completely different character on the pitch: I felt comfortable, I felt confident, I did my job.

“But off the pitch, I was scared to death, I didn’t know what to do, how to live and emotionally I wasn’t conscious. I know I was drinking too much.

“London was my home, and I couldn’t for the life of me have lived in Manchester. I turned him down and I turned down a pay increase of £15,000-a-year.”

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Adams has always been very open about his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, forming his Sporting Chance clinic as a result.

By 1996 the defender had overcome his demons. However, the Gunners were not as big a force by then and the chance to United arose again.


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“I went to Peter Hillwood, who was the chairman of the club, and was completely open with him about the offer,” Adams added.

“I asked, ‘what’s the ambition of the club?’ You’d never hear of that today, a player speaking with the owner of the club and going, ‘hold on a minute, do we want to win the league or not, because if we don’t want to win the league, I’m out of here. I love the club, dearly. I don’t want to go anywhere but what are you doing?’”

Adams decided to stick rather and twist. And the arrival of Wenger as the club’s new manager completely transformed the club’s history.

“My salary got trebled as well,” Adams said. “Let’s be honest – a trebled salary, we want to win the league and we have all these good players coming, so I said, ‘alright I will give it a roll, I’ll see what happens’.”

Under Wenger, Adams won the league and FA Cup double in both the 1997-98 and 2001-02 campaigns – the latter of which was final season as a professional.

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