With Arsenal and Rangers having baulked at the asking price for the 31- year-old midfielder, it is now up to the City manager, Ron Atkinson, to persuade the Leeds captain that a Sky Blue shirt would suit him better next season.
Another midfielder on the market is Middlesbrough's out-of-contract Jamie Pollock. The England Under-21 international, who is valued at pounds 2m, did not report back for pre-season training yesterday and is understood to be a target for Aston Villa.
"Pollock seems adamant that he wants to leave and there is no point in holding on to a player who is unhappy," Viv Anderson, Middlesbrough's assistant manager, said.
Boro fans will be able to see their pounds 7m signing, Fabrizio Ravanelli, in action for the first time later this month, but only if they are in Malaysia for the club's pre-season tour which begins on 23 July.
The Alan Shearer story yesterday reached the point where Oliver Stone could well have declared his interest alongside Manchester United, Newcastle and Milan.
Conspiracy theories abounded after the name of Blackburn's president of the penalty area appeared on a British Airways flight manifest listing a 30-strong United party for the warm-up trip to Italy.
A straightforward case of tomfoolery by an employee at United's travel agents' proved to be the answer, but in the climate generated by a stream of Shearer-on-his-way stories - including United's kit manufacturer already stockpiling his replica shirt - it had been easy to see darker forces at work. United want Shearer and have kept up the unsettling pressure despite repeated rebuffs by Rovers to offers of pounds 12m.
Maurice Watkins, the United solicitor and director, dismissed the latest Shearer association as "over-optimism", while Travel Management, of Leamington Spa, suspended an employee on full pay and later announced that a member of staff had "verbally added" the player's name to the written passenger list.
The company confirmed that United had no knowledge of the action and did not supply Shearer's name. It also apologised "unreservedly" for the embarrassment caused to all three parties.
"I suspect that this is some over-optimism on the part of a travel agent or a sense of humour," Watkins said. "We haven't signed Alan Shearer."
If United continue to be thwarted, PSV Eindhoven are looking at offers of pounds 13m for the 19-year-old Brazilian striker, Ronaldo. Barcelona and Internazionale are already disputing his signature, while Real Betis yesterday got Finidi George all to themselves, the Nigerian striker having agreed to a pounds 5m move from Ajax.
Football's disciplinary structure is to be changed, starting with next season's Coca-Cola Cup. Red and yellow card punishment - apart from violent conduct - will be restricted to the individual competition rather than across the board.
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