Cynthia Bateman pondered in The Guardian that “money should have gone to buy a striker but you can’t get much for under £3million these days”. It seemed a fair point but, in the days before transfer windows, there was still hope. Who would answer United’s clarion call?
Darko Pancev was a poacher long admired by the boss, the Golden Boot winner a year earlier had been deadly in front of goal for Red Star Belgrade. Although his move to Inter Milan was clearly not working out, as he struggled to find a place in Osvaldo Bagnoli’s side, leaving the Serie A side a mere few months after signing for several million pounds did not appear a realistic option.
Ajax attacker Dennis Bergkamp was also mooted, even if he’d insisted he would remain in Holland for the duration of the season. One newspaper report noted his father and brother were United supporters and he apparently grew up with a poster of Denis Law on his bedroom wall. Even if there were sufficient funds available, two of the continent’s top striking talents appeared out of reach. With critics sniping that Mark Robins had been offloaded to Norwich prematurely, there was also speculation about a possible target fuelled by the manager revealing he would spend some time in Scotland.
Dundee United’s precocious target-man Duncan Ferguson was touted as the answer to the Reds’ attacking problems – even though, as a raw teenager, he was far from the finished article.
Young Scot Ferguson did share one attribute with the eventual signing – his fiery temper – but Eric Cantona was on a different level - a