Football: Shearer double a tonic for Gullit

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The Independent Online
AFTER LAST weekend's abject failure in Stockholm, the rough and tumble of Premiership action proved more to the liking of the England international strikers Alan Shearer and Paul Merson. Shearer scored twice for Newcastle United in their 4-0 demolition of Southampton at St. James' Park.

Although admittedly achieved against the top flight's worst defence, the scoreline did suggest a return in the north-east to the "sexy" football promised by new manager Ruud Gullit.

Merson, meanwhile, opened his Aston Villa account after the acrimonious transfer from Middlesbrough with a first-half penalty against Wimbledon. Ian Taylor made it 2-0; the Dons had Carl Leaburn sent off.

And as Manchester United beat Coventry City 2-0 at Old Trafford to continue their rise up the table reports yesterday suggested that British Sky Broadcasting's pounds 623.4m offer accepted by the United board may not be the only one. Speculation was mounting that the club was expecting a rival bid to eclipse the Rupert Murdoch deal already on the table.

Martin Edwards, United's chief executive, will formally recommend the BSkyB offer to shareholders soon but he is honour bound to inform them of any additional interest.

Outside Old Trafford before yesterday's game against Coventry, the campaign against the BSkyB bid continued as the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association distributed leaflets publicising Tuesday night's planned rally at the Bridgewater Hall. In addition, the association claim to be considering a bid of their own, backed by an unnamed rock musician.

Tottenham Hotspur are the latest club to be linked with a takeover by media giants. United News and Media, Lord Hollick's empire which includes Anglia, HTV and Meridian ITV franchises, are putting together a consortium to make a bid the north London club, as the Independent reported yesterday.

Enic, the English National Investment Company, who have a 25 per cent stake in Rangers in Scotland, are also said to be involved in an attempt to buy out the Tottenham chairman Alan Sugar, and Time Warner are also thought to be involved.

Sugar, who owns 40 per cent of the White Hart Lane club and has indicated he is willing to sell, has already reportedly turned down a bid worth pounds 80m from investment company Enic and is likely to hold out for a higher price.

The moves for Tottenham follows BSkyB's offer for United and Carlton's negotiations over a possible deal at Arsenal.

Reports, pages 3, 5 and 6