MANCHESTER UNITED were ready to splash out a staggering £21 million plus in cash for Alan Shearer!

Suggestions at the weekend of a £19 million cash-and-player deal in which Andy Cole was valued at £7 million were wide of the mark.

United, desperate to get the Euro 96 top scorer in a red shirt for next season, realised that Rovers wouldn't be interested in damp squib Cole. And that's why they hammered out the straight cash deal.

But it never got past the "Hello, it's Martin Edwards," stage. The United chairman, making his second approach inside a month for Shearer, didn't even get the chance to outline his offer to Rovers boss Robert Coar.

But the fantastic cash offer shows the determination of the Reds to snap up the best striker in Europe and possibly the world. And it may be significant that the only comment from Shearer himself in the past few days has been a virtual "no comment."

It might finally end all the speculation which is supposed to be annoying Shearer if he were to come out and say, once and for all: "I have absolutely no intention of joining United. I don't even like them. They can get lost as far as I am concerned."

That would do the trick. And if Big Al, whose five goals in Euro 96 won him the Golden Boot award, wants to make that announcement in the Press then our back page is open for him to do just that.

Come on, Alan. Just give us a call!

Meanwhile, the fans will have to rely on the word of Mr Coar and Jack Walker who have both slammed the talk of a transfer. But there are so many tales going round of gentlemen's agreements and informal handshakes and nods and winks that anything can still happen.

Rovers certainly don't need the money. But that's not what it's all about these days. Player power has come a long way since the days when the legendary Bryan Douglas and Ronnie Clayton were left to play out their days in the Great Harwood Showground mud against hackers not fit to polish their boots.

Rovers should never be forgiven for allowing that to happen. They know they would never be forgiven if they let Shearer go to the club the Rovers fans love to hate. Fans might just live with a move to Barcelona or Milan. But not to "that lot."

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