In the latest episode of UTD Podcast, Bojan Djordjic tells a story that indicates the extraordinary lengths Sir Alex Ferguson would go to in order to achieve success for Manchester United.
Though born in Belgrade, Djordjic took his first steps as a player in Sweden, where he attracted interest from several leading clubs in the late 1990s.
He eventually joined the Reds as a youth-team player in 1999, and he told UTD Podcast that it was Sir Alex’s influence – and incredible determination – that sealed the deal.
UTD Podcast: Djordjic on meeting Sir AlexVideo
“My dad said: ‘All these clubs that offered you a contract now, we have to go and visit them to see how they will take care of you outside the training ground,’”
“‘Where would you live? What school would you attend? What will your life look like outside the training pitch? Because it’s only two hours in the morning or the afternoon, and that is a lot of spare time.’
“Of all of these clubs I visited, Manchester United made the biggest impression on me. We met the gaffer! Sir Alex, he came to Stockholm to visit my boyhood team and speak to the coaches there.
“Can you believe that? Sir Alex, after the Treble-winning season, sits on a plane for a 16 or 17-year-old kid and comes to his little club [on the] outskirts of Stockholm and has a chat for over an hour with the other coaches there. How can I not sign for United then?”
Djordjic explains that other clubs simply did not match United’s personal touch.
“Everybody else was sending everybody else, like somebody that was the boss of the academy, some coach here and there. Sir Alex came to Stockholm! I said: ‘Where’s the pen? I’ll write the contract now.’
But Bojan joked that, despite the legendary lengths our former manager would go to, he was as tough as old boots when it came to the nitty-gritty of contract negotiations!
“You couldn’t budge with him when it came to the contract!”
laughed the former midfielder.
“I said: ‘What is this? From year one to year two it’s like a 50-quid raise?’ But he thought it was the biggest deal ever. He was like: ‘Fifty pounds is good!’
“How much was my first contract? If I tell you now, then you will understand why everyone else in that team wanted to break my legs when I was Under-19! Everybody was on YT contracts and on £90 a week, and I had a professional contract. Everybody knows being an Academy player, you don’t earn that much. But I got a great signing-on [fee], Sir Alex listened to me and made sure I could buy my first flat.
“But it was tough as well, because United paid £1million for me and it was in all the English papers. Coming into the dressing room, a £1million player as a teenager, sitting with other kids who are on £90 a week… it was survival in the beginning. I had to be better than them to get accepted. It was not that easy, and everybody was not like opening their arms [saying] ‘Here comes the saviour!’ Nobody spoke to me in the beginning!”
Download the Bojan Djordjic UTD Podcast episode from the usual platforms to listen to the interview in full.