Football: Ferguson joins Blackburn in the costly chase for Keane: United look to City Ground

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ALEX FERGUSON, the Manchester United manager who lost out to Blackburn Rovers in the chase for Alan Shearer's signature last summer, will today try to dissuade Nottingham Forest's Roy Keane from succumbing to Ewood overtures and instead join his championship-winning side.

The highly regarded Republic of Ireland midfielder appeared to be on his way to Blackburn, after agreeing personal terms with Kenny Dalglish - a situation that has angered Fred Reacher, the City Ground chairman, who accused Rovers of making an illegal approach to the 21-year-old. But Keane has been keeping his options open, allowing Ferguson to step in and set up today's talks.

Ferguson was frustrated by Dalglish over Shearer last year but, given the millions available around Old Trafford, the United manager has the financial back-up to tackle his fellow Scot in the bidding this time. Whoever wins, a British transfer record is inevitable: Forest state that Keane's price starts at pounds 3.5m - only pounds 100,000 less than Shearer, hitherto the costliest.

'Manchester United seem very interested,' Keane said yesterday, 'otherwise they would not have asked me to break my holiday in Cork and have talks with Mr Ferguson tomorrow.

'Blackburn Rovers were the first club I spoke to, but I always said that I was prepared to listen to other interested parties. Blackburn offered me a four-year contract and I agreed personal terms with Mr Dalglish.'

Ray Hardman, the Swindon Town chairman, emerged grim-faced but tight-lipped from a two-hour meeting with his manager Glenn Hoddle yesterday. Hoddle, and his assistant John Gorman, are reported to be close to signing for Chelsea - a situation that prompted the 'discuss-the-future' talks between him and the County Ground board.

Afterwards, the various parties departed for the promotion-celebrating tour of the town in an open-top bus. 'We're going to enjoy the trip,' Hardman said.

Gary Lineker's gentle criticism of the J League's two-game-a-week policy has worked - the workload will be halved next season.

Frank McAvennie, the 33-year-old Celtic striker, has signed a new one- year contract to remain at Parkhead. The former Scotland international scored nine goals for Celtic since arriving midway through last season. 'The way Frank played for us over the last few months of the season convinced me that he has a lot of good football in him,' Liam Brady, the Celtic manager, said.