Sir Alex Ferguson considered making a move for Defoe who he called a top goalscorer but the striker went on to complete a £6million switch to Tottenham midway through the 2004/05 campaign.
Defoe has revealed that United instead opted to sign Louis Saha that January and the French forward would go on to score 42 goals in 124 games for the Red Devils.
Asked about his failed move to Old Trafford, Defoe told Press Association Sport: There was interest, at the time I was young.
When youre young its nice to be linked with the biggest clubs in the world.
They bought Saha. I remember a lot of the boys telling me when Id go away with England, “I thought you were actually coming”.
That would have been amazing, but I was young, and you get your head down and get on with it.
As a manager, Id have loved to have played for him [Sir Alex].
Therell be many players that will say that, because he was the best.
Defoe backed his former England team-mate Steven Gerrard to be a success as manager of Rangers.
I mean I could stand here and talk about Stevie forever you know, he said.
Great player, Liverpool legend, you saw the reception he got, when I heard the news I was like [yes, great move].
I just want to wish him the best to be honest away from football hes such a nice guy, I loved playing with him, one of the best players Ive ever played with.
Without being biased, hell go on to be a top, top manager you know with his experience and just how he is as a person cool, calm, collected you know, he doesnt feel the pressure, he loves the pressure.