Football, like in life, is full of fascinating what-ifs, those Sliding Doors moments when the course of history could have been dramatically different if that crucial minute, hour or day had taken a left turn instead.

The vast majority of situations, actions and decisions made on a football pitch or in the boardroom would hardly ripple the time vortex if they had played out differently. A rare few however are so extreme that British football would be barely recognisable from its present incarnation.

It’s time to suspend reality and all that you know is true and imagine what the Premier League and beyond would be like if…

…..Ibrahimovic had signed for Arsenal

In 1998 Arsene Wenger arranged for a 17 year old from Sweden to visit Highbury and try on an Arsenal shirt for size with a view to signing the extravagantly gifted teen. Fatally Le Professor then suggested the forward then take part in a trial.

The player’s name was Zlatan Ibrahimovic and as he stated some years later – and still rather miffed at the impertinence – “Zlatan doesn’t do auditions”.

Instead he remained in his native Scandinavia for another two years before moving to Ajax. After that came the world.

So what would have happened if Arsene had signed him on instinct alone? A year later the Gunners signed another brilliantly unique talent in Thierry Henry and working off the reasonable timeframe of twelve months spent in the youth team for Ibra with the occasional stint on the bench we can assume both players would have emerged as first team regulars around the same time. Henry, Bergkamp and Ibrahimovic as a front three is enough to give any football supporter the shivers.

Arsene surely regretted not taking a gamble – like you can at zumaslots.org  with a few free spins on their excellent slot game.

…..Sergio Aguero had struck the post

It’s enough to make any City supporter awake in a cold sweat. With seconds remaining in their final game of the 2011/12 season the title lies in the balance. One goal by the Blues and their first league championship for 44 years is theirs and better yet it would be snatched from the grasp of their deadliest rivals United in Fergie-time.

The ball finds its way to Mario Balotelli who helps it on – in typically unorthodox fashion – to City’s lethal scorer-supreme Sergio Aguero. He takes a touch before striking with his right insole.

The ball thuds off the base of the post and is cleared by a QPR defender to safety.

So what would have happened if fate fell six inches to the right? Inconsolable suffering for anyone connected to Manchester City for starters. The plot however thickens when we look at the victors. Sir Alex Ferguson would have retired on the spot meaning the following season’s title race could have had a completely different complexion. Furthermore moving the vacancy as his successor forward a year places doubt on David Moyes’ appointment. United fans should consider that single strike by the Argentine even more costly than they thought.

……Manchester United had lost to Forest

Popular opinion has it that Alex Ferguson’s job was on the line as Manchester United travelled to Nottingham Forest for a tricky FA Cup 3rd round tie in 1990. With Liverpool still very much on their perch United were halfway through a season that saw them mired in mid-table having already exited the League Cup and the summer optimism that greeted an expensive overhaul of talent seemed like a false dawn from a very long time ago. Lose this game and the Scot could be expecting a P45 within days.

Mark Robin’s winning goal has since gone down in club folklore with the pressure lessening to such an extent Ferguson’s team went on to lift the cup in May. The rest, as they say, is history.

So what would have happened if Forest had prevailed? It is pure conjecture as to who United would have brought in to replace the failed gaffer but it’s fair to assume they wouldn’t have built such a trophy-hungry dynasty.

In the vacuum left by United’s non-dominance would various clubs have enjoyed shares of the spoils? A title here. A title there. Or would another club have been propelled by their initial glory and gone on to establish a similar monopoly of silverware?

Ferguson meanwhile would have presumably returned north of the border, his reputation for dragging small clubs to prominence but unable to handle those with stature forever preceding him.


…..Gazza had reached Shearer’s cross

If Italia 90 helped shape modern football in Britain, ushering in the Premier League and the Sky money as the game shed its unwelcome associations with hooliganism and decrepit stadia, then hosting the Euros in 1996 was England celebrating itself.

Three Lions blasted from every car stereo. St George flags fluttered proudly from bedroom windows. Football was coming home.

A superb victory over Spain had taken our boys to the semi-finals where, inevitably, Germany awaited. It would be pens then. And we would lose.

Yet in extra-time Alan Shearer volleyed the ball hard into the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ and as it flashed across the goal Gazza pounced to surely bundle it home. Except he didn’t. He missed by inches.

So what would have happened if he had connected? With UEFA trialling the Golden Goal system it would have ended the contest there and then. Meaning no tears for Gareth Southgate and heartbreak for a nation.

The Czech Republic in the final would have been brushed aside in patriotic fervour and thirty years of hurt would have been wiped out in one glorious and memorable evening.

We would all be concerned right now for the health of Sir Paul Gascoigne.

…..Jean-Marc Bosman had been granted his move

When Jean-Marc Bosman’s contract was up at RFC Liege in 1990 the journeyman Belgian sought a move to lower-league French club Dunkerque but the two clubs could not agree a suitable fee.

So Liege withheld his player registration and lowered his wages into the bargain until the European Court of Justice decreed this was a restraint of trade. Suddenly footballers everywhere had freedom of movement.

Ethically this is a no-brainer. Players should of course be free to move wherever they wish once their contractual obligations are concluded. Otherwise they are essentially being held hostage against their will.

The consequences however went far beyond fairness. Players now had all the power and with that power came an extortionate rise in wages and transfer fees.

So what would have happened if RFC Liege had initially relented to a straightforward switch? It’s no exaggeration to state that the entire landscape of football would be markedly unfamiliar to such an extent that it’s difficult to envisage. Like imagining life without the internet.