was moved to write in The Independent: “Oldham's visit to Old Trafford could prove a watershed for Manchester United and Alex Ferguson's managerial tenure. If the Stretford End were still standing, the message from the masses would be simple: 'Give us a goal'. United would probably settle for victory by any margin today to revive a campaign in danger of dying on its feet."
United did resuscitate the season, Brian McClair scoring twice in a 3-0 victory, but the manager remained unconvinced that he had the firepower needed to end the agonising wait for league glory. The following week, he got his man in a move that sent shockwaves reverberating around the football world.
Many had viewed Alan Shearer as the ideal striker signing for United but the Southampton youngster had instead joined ambitious Blackburn for a record £3.3million fee. The Geordie goal-grabber was long touted for a switch to Old Trafford and was already proving his class at his new club. As fate would have it, the England hitman would rupture his knee ligaments a month later but he’d bagged 12 goals in his first 11 games and it was always going to be a case of the one who got away.
“Shearer did not convince us he necessarily wanted to play for United,” chairman Martin Edwards explained at a shareholders meeting, and the club was forced to look elsewhere. Sheffield Wednesday boss Trevor Francis had gone public about a £3.5million bid for David Hirst that had been flatly rejected. The Owls’ all-action centre-forward was tied