Gabriel Batistuta and Patrick Kluivert impressed at the World Cup in France and both were heavily linked with switches to Old Trafford. Ultimately, though, the former remained committed to Serie A side Fiorentina, while the latter decided to swap AC Milan for Barcelona.
Consequently, with time running out, Ferguson was forced to look closer to home. Dwight Yorke was the striker that the Scot eventually turned to and after several negotiations had taken place, a fee of £12.6m was agreed with Aston Villa - a club-record fee for United.
The Trinidadian made his debut during a largely unremarkable trip to West Ham United, which ended in a 0-0 draw. However, Yorke's first home outing for the Red Devils - played 16 years ago today - would be much more of an entertaining encounter.
Alan Curbishley's newly-promoted Charlton Athletic were the visitors, who made the trip full of confidence, having collected five points from clashes against Newcastle United, Southampton and Arsenal. Over the course of those 270 minutes, the Addicks were yet to concede a goal.
It appeared that they were going to pull off another shock result when in the 32nd minute Mark Kinsella's strike from 30 yards out took a wicked deflection, which deceived United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel on its way into the net.
Yet, within six minutes, the hosts were level. It had been expected that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be sold to make way for Yorke, but the Norwegian made the most of a starting opportunity by firing into the roof of the net from the edge of the area after he had been set up by the new signing.
It was then Yorke's turn to open his United account in first-half stoppage time. David Beckham was the creator, crossing from the right for the unmarked centre-forward, who powered a downward header inside the far post.
The same duo then combined within three minutes of the restart as Yorke helped himself to a second goal. Beckham's cross on this occasion stayed low, but Charlton were unable to clear and when the ball broke for Yorke, he steered his effort beyond the reach of visiting goalkeeper Sasa Ilic.
The final say would go to Solskjaer, though, who stooped just in time to convert a cross from his compatriot Henning Berg in the 63rd minute.
Both goalscorers were then soon substituted by Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham and as the season wore on, that quartet would contribute important goals as United went on to win an unprecedented treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League trophies.
MAN UNITED: Schmeichel; Irwin (Berg), Johnsen, Stam, P Neville; Blomqvist, Keane, Scholes, Beckham; Yorke (Sheringham), Solskjaer (Cole)
CHARLTON: Ilic; Mills, Brown, Youds, Powell; Newton (Mortimer), Redfearn, Kinsella (K Jones), Robinson; Mendonca (S Jones), Hunt