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Toon wanted Fergie to replace Keegan

Newcastle United tried to persuade Sir Alex Ferguson to leave Manchester United for St James’ Park in 1997, former Magpies chairman Freddy Shepherd has revealed.

One of Man United's greatest title wins came in 1996 when they clawed back a 12-point gap in January to overhaul Kevin Keegan's Newcastle
Newcastle wanted Sir Alex Ferguson to replace Kevin Keegan.

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And he claimed Ferguson’s representatives “held talks” with Newcastle -- but only to get himself a pay rise at Old Trafford.

Ferguson retired last May after 27 seasons in charge of United, having won 13 league titles and two Champions League trophies with the club.

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

Keegan then resigned dramatically in February 1997 and Shepherd -- who left Newcastle in 2007 after selling his shares in the club to Mike Ashley -- said Ferguson was their top target to replace the Englishman.

“When Keegan left we tried to get Ferguson to Newcastle as his replacement,” Shepherd 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 United. It wasn’t to be though.”

Instead of appointing Ferguson, Newcastle chose his old enemy Kenny Dalglish, who was out of work after 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 pounds while later that year Newcastle inflicted one of Ferguson’s heaviest defeats as Manchester United were beaten 5-0 at St James’ Park.

Ferguson makes no mention of Newcastle’s approach in either of his last two autobiographies.

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