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Alex Ferguson on the real reason Alan Shearer didn’t sign for Man United

alan shearer man united

“Initially, I felt sick and angry,” Ferguson wrote about missing out on the player.

Alan Shearer was the best English striker of his generation and one of the best centre forwards in the world. He remains the Premier League’s record goalscorer 14-years after retiring, having scored 260 goals in the division.

Shearer may also be the only player to twice reject the chance to sign for Man United.

alan shearer man united

Alan Shearer rejects Man United.

Shearer first turned down Man United was in 1992. The striker signed for Blackburn Rovers instead, joining from Southampton in a deal worth £3.6m in 1992.

Shearer won the Premier League with Blackburn in 1995. He ended up scoring an incredible 112 goals in 138 Premier League games for the club.

Yet, Man United didn’t suffer from losing out on the striker.

The Red Devils signed Eric Cantona from Leeds United and went on to win back to back league titles and the FA Cup. Cantona became Alex Ferguson’s talisman.

Alan Shearer turns down Man United again.

In 1996, the England striker was on the move again. This time, he joined Newcastle United, his hometown club for £15m, a world-record fee at the time.

Shearer was linked with a move to Man United again. And, yet again, the Red Devils missed out on him.

In A Will to Win, Ferguson’s diary of the 1996/97 season, the former Man United manager writes that he fully expected Shearer to sign for the Red Devils.

Ferguson met with the player and his agent and was ‘convinced’ that Shearer wanted to sign for the club.

Shearer’s meeting with Ferguson.

“When I’m finished, I feel sure he won’t be able to resist coming to Old Trafford,” the Scot wrote.

Ferguson said that Shearer only had two questions about the move. The player and his agent were due to speak with Arsenal and Newcastle, but the Man United manager left the meeting feeling he landed his transfer target.

“He wanted to know if he would be able to take the penalty kicks and if he could wear the number nine shirt,” Ferguson wrote.

“I tell him that Eric Cantona hasn’t missed a penalty for us since he arrived but that if he ever did, then, possibly. As, for the number nine shirt, no problem.

“I thought that if we were the only things worrying him, we would get our man.”

Shearer signs for Newcastle United.

Shearer’s agent, Tony Stephens, was due to call Ferguson three days later to inform him of the player’s decision.

Ferguson, however, didn’t hear back from Stephens for a week and when he did, it was not the news he wanted to hear.

‘I start phoning at 8 am, early enough to get hold of Tony Stephens.

“When I finally make contact he simply says: ‘I’m sorry, Alan has agreed to join Newcastle,’ the Man United manager writes.

alan shearer man united

Ferguson felt that Jack Walker, the Blackburn Rovers owner, put the brakes on the move as he did not want the player to join Man United.

‘I’m pretty sure I know how Jack Walker would feel if Shearer were to join us,” he writes.

“Perhaps the player feels such loyalty to someone who brought him from Southampton and made him a wealthy young man that he doesn’t wish to upset him by joining us.

“At any rate, there was clearly an undisclosed agenda, and one day I’ll find out what really happened.”

Jack Walker blocks Man United move.

Martin Edwards, the former Man United chairman, also believes that the Blackburn owner prevented Shearer from signing for Man United, as he did not want to sell the player to a rival club.

“Shearer had been to Alex Ferguson’s house, spoke to him and assured him he wanted to come,” Edwards said when promoting his book, Red Glory.

“The problem, I think, was with the chairman of Blackburn, Jack Walker, who was not a great fan of Manchester United, (we were) local rivals, both Lancashire clubs.

“He did not want Alan Shearer to come to Manchester United.

“Shearer was quite close to Walker, who was like a father figure to him, and I don’t think Alan wanted to upset him by coming to United.

“And I’m not sure Jack would have let him come anyway, whereas he was happy for Alan to go to Newcastle, I don’t think that was a threat to him.”

Shearer’s account.

Shearer gave his account of the transfer earlier this year. The former England captain admitted that he asked Ferguson if he could take penalities and wear the number nine jersey.

He also said he was impressed by Ferguson’s sales pitch, but the Man United manager did not return his phone calls.

Shearer also said that the opportunity to play for the club he supported was what ultimately swayed him.

“At one point, I was going to Manchester United,” Shearer told the BBC.

“But then, I sat down and I got a call from Kevin who asked to see me a day or two later. And I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to go back to Newcastle. It was the club I always supported and wanted to play for.

“I rang him but there was no answer, I thought I couldn’t leave a message. I rang him again but there was still no answer. So, I left him a message after the third time and no surprise, I never got a callback.

“I’ve got no regrets, I’d do the same again.”

alan shearer man united

Man United v Newcastle.

A week after Shearer joined the Magpies, Man United played Newcastle at Wembley in the Charity Shield.

Ferguson’s team won 4-0 and, after the match, he wrote that missing out on Shearer was ‘not too agonising,’ be initially feeling ‘sick and angry’ about it.

“History will prove whether he was right to pick Newcastle ahead of us,” Ferguson wrote.

“And I do feel that there’s often a sting in the tail when you sign someone for that kind of money.

“Afterwards, my players tell me that there is already muttering in the Newcastle team about some of them looking for new contracts.

“It’s very difficult keeping some kind of pay parity in a club, especially in these days of agents.”

Move works out for both parties.

Ultimately, the move worked out for both parties. Shearer went on to score over 200 goals for Newcastle and became a legend for his hometown team. Man United, meanwhile, coped fine without the striker.

After missing out on signing Shearer, Ferguson signed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The following summer, after Cantona retired, Man United signed Teddy Sheringham from Tottenham Hotspur.

Sheringham and Solskjaer would score the goals that won Man United the Champions League in 1999.

Read next – Alex Ferguson explains why he rejected the chance to sign Ronaldo for Man United.

(Originally published on October 1, 2020).

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