Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed that Wayne Rooney initially turned down approaches from the club on two occasions.
Rooney became the most expensive teenager in football when United paid Everton £27 million to secure his services in August 2004.
The 29-year-old has gone on to skipper the Red Devils and England, while he is closing in on Sir Bobby Charlton's goal-scoring records for both club and country.
But according to Ferguson, Rooney had been a target for the English giants since 2000, when he was identified by then United director of youth football Jim Ryan.
The Scot told ITV Sport: "Jim Ryan came back from one of our academy games at the 14 years level and he said 'I've seen a player' and he said the boy is Wayne Rooney.
"We tried to get him because there's a window at the end of the season – it's a one-week window – where we can entice or approach a boy from another club to come join your academy, but it failed.
"The boy wanted to stay at Everton – at that time he had a love of the club and he's an Everton fan.
"When he got to 16 we tried again. We approached him to join as a 16-year-old, but once again he refused.
"Then I think everyone saw the highlights when he scored that goal against Arsenal. It confirmed exactly what Jim Ryan had said. This boy was going to be a United player."