"It has been a long process to complete this deal.

"We did not know whether David would go abroad or come to us.

"We are delighted he has chosen Manchester United."

He might not have gone down in Old Trafford folklore quite as Sir Alex Ferguson had envisaged but there was genuine reason for excitement when United finally completed a deal to sign David Bellion in the summer of 2003.

Ferguson was chasing the impossible dream of winning four trophies in one season and identified the then Sunderland forward as the perfect supplementary addition to an attack which already featured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Diego Forlan and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Bellion had been spotted by Sunderland two years prior when Sunderland coach and future United reserve manager, Ricky Sbragia, spotted him in a match at the Cannes soccer Academy - the same youth set-up which had nurtured Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira.

The Black Cats wasted no time in securing a two-year deal such was their excitement regarding the raw talent and athleticism they spotted in the French youngster, they weren't the only ones impressed by what he could offer.

Bellion started the next season in the North East encouragingly, with two substitute appearances in the first three Premier League matches of the campaign, but he'd only go on to feature another seven times as he struggled to deal with the physicality of the English top-flight.

Yet while there were concerns about the forward's physical presence there were no such worries about his pace, something which Ferguson was blown away by when he watched Bellion at an Under-20 youth tournament in Jersey.

Those performances at youth level were what sparked Ferguson's fascination with the French forward.

Ashley Cole of Arsenal battles with David Bellion of Sunderland

While it might seem a lazy stereotype to categorise Bellion simply based on his electric energy in attack there was good reason for it. Growing up he loved athletics as much as he loved football and prior to his Sunderland move he competed at the 2001 National Indoor Youth Championships, where he won the 60-metre race.

It was this athletic ability which earned comparisons with Arsenal star Thierry Henry and privately Ferguson believed he could transform Bellion into a lethal Premiership finisher in the same way that Arsene Wenger developed Henry into one of the world's most feared and respected strikers.

After another mixed start to his second season with Sunderland interest began to build in his potential signature, Ferguson viewing the youngster as the bargain buy of the season given his massive potential and relatively modest fee.

Hearing of rival interest from Liverpool and Arsenal a £1.5million bid was prepared for the January window for a striker who had only ever scored one senior goal. The bid was rejected.

With his side battling to stay in the Premier League Sunderland boss Howard Wilkinson pleaded with Bellion to commit his future to the club, but the forward had his heart set on a move to Old Trafford at the end of the season, when he would become a free agent.

In retaliation to the rejected bid Ferguson labelled his pursuit as 'doomed' as he cast doubt on Bellion moving to the club on a Bosman in the summer.

Sunderland chairman Bob Murray attacked United for their alleged 'tapping up' of the player, saying the treatment of the Black Cats was 'shabby, despicable, disrespectful, arrogant and unprofessional' in their attempts to land the 20-year-old.

Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to transform David Bellion into a lethal striker

"We did things the right way," Ferguson hit back in the war of words. "We tried to do a deal because his contract was up and we spoke to him in January, which is the appropriate time.

"But we are very unsure about the boy coming here now."

Although he dreamed of moving to Manchester there was also uncertainty from Bellion who was now eyeing up a return to France given Sunderland's reluctance to let him join United.

"David is very upset, but has to get on with it and he will be at Sunderland for another four months," his agent Mike Morris said.

"He is out of contract in the summer and wants to return to France because he is confused about how English clubs do business."

However, it was agent Morris who would eventually help get a deal done, in part down to his close friendship with Ferguson's son, Jason.

With fresh belief United would sign him at the end of the season Bellion refused Sunderland's plea to extend his stay and waited for his contract to expire as the Black Cats were relegated to the Championship.

The French forward's Sunderland contract expired on June 31, a day later he was in Manchester to sign a four-year deal with United.

Despite becoming a free agent United would have to pay a compensation fee because of his age - an initial £2m figure which was eventually decided by a tribunal, as well as the inclusion of a sell-on clause ensuring the Wearside club would benefit from any future transfer.

"This is a dream come true," Bellion said at his Unied unveiling. "I am ambitious and when you want to achieve the best things then you can't ask for more than joining one of the biggest clubs in the world.

"I have a long way to go to make it at United. I have a lot to learn and I will give everything to be a success.

"It is the biggest challenge of my life but I don't see it as a pressure. It is an exciting prospect to be 20, to be a professional footballer with one of the best in the world and be surrounded by the best players in the world.

Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Bellion in training

"That's exciting and not something to be frightened of. I am confident I can learn from the best."

Bellion was the first capture of the post-David Beckham era for Ferguson but it was Ryan Giggs who the Frenchman was looking to emulate, having studied his play during his upbringing in France.

"Ryan Giggs was a particular favourite of mine. I used to watch him closely because I loved the way he took on players at speed.

"There is no doubt that Ryan will be someone I can learn a lot from. However, with the world-class quality at Old Trafford I can learn from everyone. I think the more I add to my game from each player the more versatile I will be and the better it will be for me.

"Eric Cantona, of course, was another favourite. Everyone in France loved Eric because he was a character. He was a strong personality and above all else a winner and that was a great example for kids."

Six months after his move had been rejected Bellion was finally on the right track and eager to make up for lost time as Ferguson got to work on shaping his own Henry into action.

United coaches focused on attacking drills in training as they looked to sharpen Bellion's eye in the final third, the aim simply to add goals to his already energetic style of play.

It looked like things were working too when the summer signing netted on his debut in a comfortable pre-season win over Celtic, coming off the bench to replace Giggs and scoring the last goal in a 4-0 win.

David Bellion scores on his debut against Celtic

But it would take three months before he was celebrating another United goal.

Instead it was Van Nistelrooy and Forlan who were shining during the pre-season matches, scoring nine goals between them in only six games, the Frenchman was never going to be able to replicate that output.

Despite being an unused substitute for a victory over Arsenal in the Charity Shield, Bellion would only play seven minutes in the opening nine Premier League matches of the season.

In the final week of October he'd finally get a rare start, one of only seven that season, as he scored and played 120 minutes in a gruelling 3-2 victory over Leeds in the League Cup - an extra-time winner from fellow summer signing Eric Djemba-Djemba securing the win.

His first league start would come a month later in a 2-1 win over Blackburn while his first league goal wouldn't come until Boxing Day in a 3-2 win over Everton.

Although it was an encouraging performance from Bellion he had only started because Ferguson rested Van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes and Giggs ahead of a packed fixture schedule - his goal was never going to be enough to force his way into the starting line-up.

It was clear the French youngster didn't have the trust of his manager as his game time was limited over the following weeks, only ever featuring because others needed a rest rather than because of his own natural ability.

As the season drew to an end Bellion was allowed infrequent appearances in a wide role, supplementing the more recognised strikers with his speed and direct dribbling approach on the wings. Even then he failed to convince.

David Bellion celebrates a rare goal against Everton

He ended the season with 3 goals in 22 appearances.

Things had not gone according to plan for Bellion since his move and things were only going to get harder as Ferguson bolstered his side at the end of the season with the addition of Wayne Rooney and Alan Smith, while young forward Giuseppe Rossi was the new kid on the block after arriving from Parma.

Though there would be a lifeline as Bellion was handed a start in the 3-1 Charity Shield defeat by Arsenal amid an ongoing selection crisis for Ferguson.

United were without seven players for the season opener including Van Nistelrooy who required surgery on his hernia, while Cristiano Ronaldo was away having represented his nation in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

While it was a chance for Bellion to share a pitch with Henry it was also a clear reminder of the reinforcement United still needed if they were to have the squad depth to assert their dominance amid vintage Arsenal and Chelsea opposition.

Despite his tame showing at the Millennium Stadium he would feature in United's first five Premier League matches of the new season and even scored in the second, grabbing a winner as both he and Smith scored in a 2-1 win over Norwich.

He wouldn't start again in the league that year.

As soon as Ferguson had key players back available for selection Bellion quickly fell down the pecking order, no longer even assured of a place on the bench as he watched on with envy.

David Bellion in action against Liverpool Reserves

Yet amid the dwindling playing time his finest moment for the club was yet to come as Bellion starred in League Cup victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford.

Bellion got the only goal of the game inside 19 seconds to secure victory for Ferguson's much-changed side, just over one month since United had ended Arsenal's invincible run in a heated league match.

"It was difficult because there was a lot of tension and everyone was hungry - so it was like a fight, a battle," the French forward proclaimed at full-time. "My goal was good for confidence and we kept the result - this was a positive thing.

"It was a good opportunity for the youngsters and people who have not played too many games to impress the manager and get a place in the first team."

David Bellion scored the only goal as United knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup in 2004

But yet again that chance didn't come. Bellion had a cameo role off the bench in the next match against Southampton, before drifting out of the frame. He'd only play three more times for the club, the last being in the dying seconds of a 1-0 win against Liverpool at Anfield in January.

Despite his lack of playing time the forward never begrudged Ferguson for his decisions, instead admiring the manager for helping him to enjoy a sport which he was falling out of love with.

“It’s true when people say Sir Alex was like a father," he reflected on his time in Manchester. "How could you ever not listen to his advice? He was the best.

“The last thing he would always say before a home match was, ‘Enjoy the game, you’re playing at the Theatre of Dreams.'

“It puts football in its rightful place. It’s a game. Of course, when you’re playing for such a big club you have to be serious — but at the same time we were not inventing a medicine that saves lives.

“It was all about bringing happiness to the wonderful supporters and although I don’t love football intensely I loved my time at that club.”

With the writing on the wall Bellion pushed for a loan to West Ham at the end of the season, scoring on his debut for the club in a League Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday.

Things had started well with manager new Alan Pardew praising his work rate and the long-term role he could play for the Hammers, but it didn't take long before both parties lost trust. Once again the talk was cheap as Bellion made only ten appearances during his half a season at Upton Park.

Giuseppe Rossi and David Bellion celebrate winning the Barclays Premier Reserve League in 2005

"I asked to join West Ham on loan," said Bellion in 2006. "But human relations aren't easy with Alan Pardew - I don't want to talk about it."

Although the player had regularly failed to deliver during his opportunities in England he can't be the only one to blame and few supporters begrudged him when he returned home to France to play for Nice in the January window.

In his first months at the club he quickly adapted to his surroundings, playing a key part as his side reached the French Cup final but lost to Nancy.

At the end of the season his move was made permanent as his five-year stint in English football came to an end.

"Leaving England was a hard choice to make, but I think there is huge potential in Nice and I don't regret a thing," he openly admitted. "I love playing football too much to stay on the bench.

"Nice are a team full of ambition and they have good potential."

Bellion would impress in his only full season with Nice, eventually moving to Bordeuax where he would spend seven years, as he continued to struggle for playing time.

His final move would see him spend a couple of seasons with Parisian side Red Star before calling an end on his career in 2016. He still works for the club now in the role as a creative director.

David Bellion, Loic Prigent and Julien da Costa attend The ASVOFF Fashion Film Festival 10th Anniversary Closing Party at Maison Jean Paul Gaultier

“When I had to give up because it was too much for me, then I became a creative director," he said of his playing career. "All the images I saw, all the magazines I read, all the movies I watched, all the fashion shows I went to, brought me a lot of ideas that I could put into football and my creative direction.

“There are some players that have got the Golden Ball, I guess, or they are world champion, but they’re not happy the day after that. They’re happy just because they made it, but what’s next?”

Bellion is right.

While his playing career was not the French revolution which Ferguson had envisaged, his story is a reminder that not making the grade at United is not a sign of failure.