Ferguson denies quit threat

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The Independent Online
Alex Ferguson said last night that he would not have walked out on Manchester United during his contract wrangle - but simply stood his ground as a matter of principle.

On Thursday, Ferguson, who had been seeking a six-year contract, agreed a new four-year deal which will keep him at Old Trafford until the year 2000. "I am happy it is all over," United's double-winning manager said. "Saying I would quit was a bit dramatic. There was a matter of principle involved, and pride also comes into it, and I hope the club will recognise that. It was important to me to get a contract which reflected what I had won."

Queen's Park Rangers yesterday threw down the welcome mat for Ernest Saunders as they made it clear that the former Guinness chief's past will not count against him in a possible pounds 10m takeover for the relegated west London club.

Saunders ended speculation about his possible involvement by contacting the club to express his interest. "We will consider any possible buyer as long as they have the club's interests at heart," Alan Hedges, QPR's managing director, said. Talks between Saunders, who was a Loftus Road director when Guinness sponsored them in the mid-1980s, and Rangers officials will be held early next week.

Saunders, 60, was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in an illegal share scheme during the pounds 2.7bn Guinness takeover of Distillers in 1987. He was released on appeal after serving 10 months when the court was told he was suffering from pre-senile dementia.

The Football Association yesterday denied reports that Glen Kirton, its Euro 96 tournament director, would be quitting at the end of the finals. "Glen is under contract to the Football Association until 31 December," a spokesman said. "He will discuss his future with the FA after the Championship."

Celtic yesterday attempted to quell rumours of problems with their pounds 3.5m signing of Alan Stubbs by insisting that the Bolton defender is legally- bound to join them on 1 July. Reports of investigations into the agents involved in the deal appeared to have put the move in doubt, but Peter McLean, a Celtic spokesman, said: "I would like to reassure the supporters that Celtic have a legally binding document with Bolton. Alan has been in Glasgow and has picked a house for him and his family."

Paul McGrath has agreed a contract with Aston Villa for another season, ending speculation that the 36-year-old defender was about to end his career with a lucrative move to the United States or Japan.

Trevor Francis, the new Birmingham City manager, has failed to sign Ian Rush from Liverpool. "He wants to play in the Premiership and I believe he will go to Leeds," Francis said.

Norwich's pressing need to cut their wage bill has led to the long-serving midfielders Ian Crook, 33, and Jeremy Goss, 31, being given free transfers.

Franz Beckenbauer, the 51-year-old Bayern Munich chairman and coach, will miss their final game of the season and their Uefa Cup celebrations this weekend after being taken to hospital with kidney pains.

Saunders profile, page 17