Looking back over the years that have past, there are a number of transfer targets who realistically could have ended up playing their trade under the floodlights at the Theatre of Dreams.
Names like Gabriel Batistuta, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho and Arjen Robben were all linked with a moves to Manchester United but one player springs to mind who was very close to making the switch Ex-Newcastle United and England legend Alan Shearer.
In the summer of 1996 the nation was fully behind an England team who was playing in their home county in a major tournament in the form of the European championship or ‘Euro 96’ as it will be remembered.
Leading that team up top that came so close to winning the tournament was Alan Shearer who at the time was playing his club football for Blackburn Rovers. In the 94/95 season he was responsible, almost single handily for bringing the Premier League crown to Ewood Park scoring 34 goals. No disrespect to Blackburn but this is something that I can’t see happening again which starts to explain just how good a player Shearer was.
That summer of 1996 represented United’s last realistic chance of acquiring the services of a player who previously turned them down in 1992 in favour of a £3.3million switch from Southampton to Blackburn. Shearer, at the time said United were taking too long to get the money together for the transfer, obviously nothing to do with the money that Chairman Jack Walker was offering him then?
It was the summer of 1996 and during that tournament the media exploded into a Shearer frenzy predicting that he would finally end up at Manchester United for a fee in the region of £15million, which seems like small change in today’s game when you take into account that clubs have billionaire owners who throw money at clubs like confetti.
Figures in the media started to drool over the thought of Shearer playing in a team that looked set to dominate the domestic league for years to come. One thing is for sure that the interest from United that summer is evident and was serious.
Shearer himself has gone on record to back it up saying that he spoke with Sir Alex Ferguson about making the move. It is was even reported that when Sir Alex spoke with Shearer and he asked him if he had any questions regarding life in Manchester or to do with the club Shearer responded with two questions: “can I have the number nine shirt?” and his last question was “can I take the penalties?”.If this is true then Sir Alex must have been confident that he could pencil Shearer in alongside Eric Cantona for the 96/97 football season.
It is also well documented that the Blackburn owner at the time Jack Walker said: “over my dead body” when asked about the chances of Shearer ending up at Old Trafford. Walker then offered Shearer to Newcastle for £15million but said that Manchester United would have to pay £20million.
It was after the Euro 96 tournament that Shearer informed us all of his decision and that he had chosen to join the club he supported as a child – Newcastle United. Their manager Kevin Keegan had won the race to sign the hottest property arguably in world football at the time and even claimed he signed Shearer for “the good of English football” as he pointed out the reds would have been unstoppable had Shearer opted for a switch to Old Trafford.
Was this another slap in the face for Sir Alex? Shearer had chosen to turn United down for a second time in his career, not many players are offered an opportunity to play for United but this time it was certain to be his last chance considering his age and the length of contract that Newcastle offered him.
It is debatable if United would have been anymore successful than what they were from 1996 onwards. Shearer’s first season in the black and white of Newcastle United ended with no silverware and it was the United of Manchester who would end up being crowned league champions.
Shearer would soon become acclaimed to not winning silverware following his move as Newcastle threatened but failed to land any domestic trophies following his world record transfer fee. It is something Sir Alex must look at with a hint of smugness on his face; you can imagine him thinking “I told you Old Trafford was the club for you to fulfil your ambition of winning trophies”.
At the time Shearer would have partnered Cantona in attack, he would have had Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs behind him, it’s a frightening thought as to what could have been and something United fans can continue Speculating and debating about. What I will say is that I feel United would have had more success in Europe with Shearer in the team.
One thing is worth bearing in mind, you could also say that if Shearer had signed then United would not have signed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that summer and that magnificent moment in the Nou Camp in 1999 would not have been written into the history books. We would not have that spine tingling moment to relive when the Clive Tydelsey on ITV commentating said: “Beckham, into Sheringham, and Solskjaer has won it!”
Quite possibly the only person deep down who regrets the move is Shearer himself, but would he ever actually admit that he was wrong to turn down Manchester United? When asked by their grandchildren “what medals did you win?” Shearer will not take long rooting out his championship winning medal he won with Blackburn and explaining his answer.
Whereas on the other hand Solskjaer will reply “how long have you got?” as he proceeds to open his treasure chest and explain the embarrassment of medals he won in a successful and illustrious career with the reds that earned him a legendary status.
By Kevin Ashford @KevinAshford7