Ferguson could have got the Dutchman back in 2001, when he dispatched one of his scouts to Holland to watch the teenage striker in action for Feyenoord.
Ferguson sent scout Jim Ryan to assess van Persie, who was red carded in the game, raising concerns about the young forward’s character, despite his obvious talent.
The United boss decided against signing van Persie as a result, and watched Arsenal land him in 2004 for what proved a bargain £2.75m.
"Robin was only 16 or 17 at the time,” said Ferguson. “But our assessment of young players is always based on the potential you see in them.
“We sent Jim Ryan over to Feyenoord and Robin was actually sent off in the game. Jim said he was a fantastic talent, but felt that he was a little immature.
“At 16, we’re all immature, but we didn’t progress it, and then he went to Arsenal.
"I never thought we would get him, until he convinced us that he wouldn’t be signing a new contract at Arsenal.
“We just started working hard with Arsene Wenger and myself, I phoned him quite a few times, and we eventually came to an agreement.
“If Robin had more than one year left on his contract, we would never have got him.
“It was very amicable with Arsene. He made his case because, first of all, he wanted him to stay without contradiction.
“There’s no doubt about that and he worked hard to keep him. The next stage, once he accepted that he had to let him go, was to make sure we paid him the money.
“And Arsene has always done a phenomenal job getting top dollar for players.”