Sunderland made an audacious attempt to hire new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal in 2009, former chairman Niall Quinn has revealed.
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The Black Cats were in talks with the former Ajax and Barcelona manager, who had then just won the Dutch title with AZ Alkmaar, while Roberto Mancini was also said to be interested in replacing Ricky Sbragia as manager at the Stadium of Light.
Instead Sunderland plumped for current Hull manager Steve Bruce while Van Gaal went to Bayern Munich, where he won the Bundesliga and reached the Champions League final in the first of two seasons in charge at the Allianz Arena.
Quinn told author Michael Walker in his book Up There, as reported in the Sunderland Echo: "We'd always had Steve Bruce on the list. Maybe some would say we'd delusions of grandeur but we had good feedback from Louis van Gaal.
"I spoke to him personally a couple of times on the phone at home. One time his wife answered and told me: 'Keep working on him, I want to go to England'."
Quinn said that Sunderland owner Ellis Short was keen to bring in Van Gaal, adding: "That was adventurous but Ellis was all set to back it if it came off. That was after Ricky. Roberto Mancini's people got in touch with us at that time too. He'd been having English lessons.
"It was interesting. We opted for Steve and he got us a top-10 finish. He understood basic things like needing goalscorers: we had Danny Welbeck [on loan from United] for a while."
Mancini, who was overlooked by Sunderland then, joined Manchester City in December 2009 while Van Gaal moved on to Old Trafford via a second spell in charge of Netherlands.