Alan Shearer explained how it was “90% safe” to join Manchester United before deciding to sign for Newcastle.
Shearer was perhaps the most wanted player in world football in the summer of 1996, with Blackburn presenting offers from their main Premier League rivals, as well as overseas.
The decision fell to the dominant champions of Alex Ferguson of United or the childhood club of Shearer Newcastle, their closest rivals.
Shearer opted for the latter in a world record move and became a club legend in the process.
But he remembers how close he was to moving to Old Trafford, even with the prospect of seeing Eric Cantona take penalties.
PORTRAIT OF AN ICON: ALAN SHEARER
“I sat with Kevin Keegan and Sir Alex the same day in a Cheshire house. Believe it or not, this was the home of David Platt’s stepmother, “he told Gary Lineker on Match of the day.
“I saw Kevin Keegan in the morning and the discussions went very well. Really positive. And then Kevin left, the Newcastle contingent left, and then of course the Manchester United contingent came in, which was of course Sir Alex.
“The first question Sir Alex asked me was,” Do I see you first or do I see you second? “And I said,” Well, I saw Kevin this morning, “and I won’t say his words to you. He said, well, basically, “I don’t stand a chance then.”
“In other words, he wanted to see me first and he was disappointed not to have done so. But I think the talks went extremely well, very positive too. I was very impressed with what he had to say.
“I asked if I could take the penalties, and his answer was,” Well, Eric is on them. ” I said, “I know but can I take them?” And he sort of looked at me with those steel eyes as if to say, “I’m not saying this to Eric Cantona”.
“Then I had to go and make a decision. At one point, I was going to Manchester United. I was 90% sure I was going to go, but I sat down and got another call from Kevin a day or two later, who asked to see me again, and I just thought: ‘You know what, I’m gonna go back to Newcastle’.
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“It was a club that I always supported, I wanted to play for, and I know you are going to ask me the following question, do you have any regrets, and the answer is no, I did not ; I would do the exact same thing.
“Well, believe it or not, once I made the decision to sign for Newcastle, I left Manchester Airport in the Far East to go on the preseason tour with Newcastle, and I thought, “I have to call Mister Alex and tell me myself”.
“So on the way to the airport, I called him. No answer. I thought I couldn’t leave a message. I have to try it again. I called him again. There was no answer. So I had to leave a message the third time because I thought it was not responding at all. So I left a message and, unsurprisingly, I was never called back. “