Ferguson rues Bale raid failure
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Feguson has admitted he tried to sign Tottenham star Gareth Bale when he was a teenager at Southampton.
With 11 goals to his name, including a hat-trick against Inter Milan in the San Siro, the 21-year-old has catapulted himself into an elite group of world stars.
It is talent Ferguson spotted a very long time ago, only to be thwarted in his attempt to get it.
"We tried to sign him as a 16 or 17-year-old boy," reflected the United chief.
"Southampton had a Scottish chief executive and George Burley was the manager.
"I don't know the full circumstances but they didn't accept our offer and I think they must have alerted Tottenham."
It has proved to be a major gain for Tottenham, although not before Bale was switched from a full-back to an orthodox wide player, the high point coming against Inter at the San Siro in October when he scored a sensational hat-trick.
"Bale has made the best contribution without a doubt," said Ferguson.
"Eleven goals for a wide player is a really good return."
Not that Ferguson feels Bale is the only threat.
Rafael van der Vaart has been equally productive in his debut season for Harry Redknapp's men, whilst Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon have ingenuity and pace that cannot be ignored either.
"Van der Vaart has made a contribution goals-wise," said Ferguson.
But perhaps the biggest worry comes from manager Harry Redknapp, a long-time friend of Ferguson's, who has masterminded a staggering form reversal from the difficult days under Juande Ramos.
"The turnaround since Harry went there is quite startling," said Ferguson.
"His great strength is his commonsense management.
"He doesn't confuse issues. He is a good judge of a footballer and is straightforward in what he demands of them.
"Tottenham's performance level this season, allied to it being their first time in the Champions League, has been excellent.
"But the test for them will be when they combine being back in the Champions League in February and March with the challenge of the league and the FA Cup."