RYAN Shawcross could still be a Manchester United player had it not been for World Cup winner Gerard Pique.
Sir Alex Ferguson would not have let Chester-born Shawcross leave for Stoke City in January 2008 had he known Pique was soon to return to Barcelona.
United boss Ferguson, writing in his programme notes before his side’s 2-0 home win over Stoke last Wednesday, said: “It always grieves me when I have to release a young player of great potential, and Shawcross certainly fell into that category.
“He had the misfortune – though he perhaps doesn’t see it that way considering the success he has had with Stoke – of coming through along with a number of other young defenders.
“This was the era of Gerard Pique and we kept him at Ryan’s expense, only I didn’t know that Gerard was growing homesick and soon after was telling us he wanted to go back to Spain.
“He has prospered with Barcelona as we know, and if I had known he wanted away then I would have kept Ryan Shawcross.”
Pique followed Shawcross out of the United exit door in May 2008 when he made a £5m move back to hometown club Barcelona.
Pique is now regarded as one of the finest centre-backs in the world.
He has won two Champions League titles with Barcelona and was part of the Spain team that lifted the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
Shawcross’s career since leaving Old Trafford has not been as decorated. But, unlike some players following their release from United, it has not gone downhill.
The 24-year-old has played an integral role in cementing Stoke’s position in the Premier League after helping them win promotion from the Championship.
He is now Stoke’s captain and led the Potters out at Wembley in their FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City last year.
Shawcross has represented England at under 21s level but is yet to win a full international cap.
The closest he has come to making his senior international debut was when he was named as an unused substitute in England’s friendly victory over Egypt at Wembley in March 2010.