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Sir Alex 'had talks' with Newcastle in 1997

ESPN staff
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Freddy Shepherd saw Newcastle finish runners-up to Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in 1996 and 1997 © Getty Images
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Newcastle tried to persuade Sir Alex Ferguson to leave Manchester United for St James' Park in 1997, former chairman Freddy Shepherd has revealed.

Shepherd claims Ferguson's representatives held talks with Newcastle - but only to get himself a pay rise at Old Trafford, accusing him of "using" the club.

Ferguson retired last May after 27 seasons in charge of United, where he won 13 league titles and two Champions Leagues.

He denied Newcastle the mantle of being champions in 1996, when his young side overturned a 12-point advantage Kevin Keegan's team had built up.

Keegan then resigned dramatically in February 1997 and Shepherd said Ferguson was their top target to replace him.

"When Keegan left we tried to get Ferguson to Newcastle as his replacement," he told the Newcastle Chronicle.

"We had talks with his advisors at the time. We soon realised there was no way he was going to come to Newcastle.

"He was just trying to get an increase in salary. We knew we were just being used. Kevin had left and we tried to get Ferguson but that's as far as we got.

"We were ambitious, we tried to get him - at least we tried.

"At one time we thought we might get him because he wasn't happy with Man U. It wasn't to be though."

Instead of appointing Ferguson, Newcastle chose his old enemy Kenny Dalglish, who was out of work having left Blackburn.

Newcastle, who finished as runners-up to Ferguson's United in both 1996 and 1997, did record a couple of triumphs over the Scot before he rejected them.

In 1996, Keegan signed Alan Shearer, who was also wanted at Old Trafford, for a then world record fee of £15 million while later that year Newcastle inflicted one of Ferguson's heaviest defeats as United were beaten 5-0 at St James' Park.

Ferguson makes no mention of Newcastle's approach in either of his autobiographies.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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