Manchester United visit White Hart Lane on Sunday then entertain Southampton next in the league, which will give Sir Alex Ferguson at least two reminders of the time he tried and failed to sign Gareth Bale.
Not too many players elude United once they make their interest known, but the ones that do seem to end up at Tottenham. "You don't get them all," Ferguson said. "We badly wanted Paul Gascoigne once but the deal never materialised. We ended up with Paul Ince instead, and he was a great player, so that didn't work out too badly. Gareth Bale was on our radar when he was still at Southampton. We tried to buy him but they turned us down. Said he wasn't going anywhere, then a few weeks later he turned up at Spurs. It happens, there's no point getting upset about it. You are never going to succeed with all of your targets."
Having welcomed several players back from injury and rested a few more in the midweek FA Cup tie against West Ham, Ferguson feels he has the squad strength to keep fighting on three fronts. No one is yet talking of another treble, though possibly to repudiate suggestions from the Manchester City camp this week that United might lose ground in the league once the Champions League knockout stage gets under way, Ferguson struck an unusually bullish tone in looking forward to his side's forthcoming programme.
"The way to look at it is that we've got great games coming up," he said. "It will be really exciting going to Madrid and having them here. There's the FA Cup tie at home to Fulham. It's a brilliant period for the club. This is exactly the situation you want to be in, involved in everything. FA Cup, league, European Cup. Absolutely brilliant. And we've got the squad to do it. If you go back to the year we won the treble we got a replay against Chelsea and won there 2-0. We got a replay against Arsenal. The FA Cup's the FA Cup. You expect the unexpected, but you also want to win it because its a great competition."
The only difficulty for Ferguson is keeping such a large and talented squad happy, because it inevitably involves leaving players out, even ones who have played well the week before. "If you are in the title race and in Europe you can't play the same players all the time," he explained. "Players accept that now. I'm not saying they enjoy it, but they can handle it as long as you do it in the right way. You have to speak to them. The days of just putting a teamsheet up on the noticeboard are gone, they are here anyway. You have to explain what you are thinking, that it is not a reflection on performance and that they will still be needed at some point in the future. I don't think you can do it any other way."
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