United bought Pique from Barcelona Under 19’s for €5.25 million (£4.6m) in 2004, a move considered something of a coup at the time.
In his first season at Old Trafford the classy Spaniard shone in the reserves and youth sides alongside the likes of Guiseppe Rossi and made his debut for the first team in a League Cup match against Crewe Alexandra aged just 17.
At 19 Pique was loaned out to Real Zaragoza for a season, where he played 28 games and scored three goals.
But on his return to Old Trafford for the 2007/08 season, the centre back struggled to establish himself in the first eleven with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ahead of him.
Pique was nonetheless given a number of chances to shine by Sir Alex that season and it was on one of those occasions that Rooney claims the boss decided that the 20-year-old didn’t have what it takes to play in the Premier League.
‘Bolton away was always horrible. It was physical and you knew you had to win the fight to win the game. I remember Evra saying about Kevin Davies: “I hate this person.” On throw-ins Kevin would go and pin the full back with his elbows all over their face and in challenges when the ball went down the line he would leave his foot in’ Rooney recalled in his Sunday Times column.
‘Bolton away more or less finished Gerard Piqué’s career at United. He was young and got bullied there and I think that’s when Fergie decided that, physically, he wasn’t right for the Premier League.’
‘I always remember Vidic: if we were going to Bolton — and it was the same when he was about to face Didier Drogba — he would be in the gym for two or three days before, pumping himself up.’
Ferguson sold Pique back to Barcelona for slightly less than he’d paid for him – €5 million (£4.3m) at the end of that 2007/08 season.
The native Catalonian walked straight into the Blaugrana’s first team, playing 45 games in that first season. The following season he made his debut for Spain, and the rest, as they say, is history.
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