Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he watches Real Madrid every week ahead of their crunch Champions League last-16 tie – and even had little joke about Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent own goal.
As for Real Madrid, the United boss was full of praise for Bernabeu manager Jose Mourinho, and revealed he thinks team selection will be crucial for both sides when the Red Devils travel to the Spanish capital next week.
Speaking to the BBC, Ferguson said: “I watch Real Madrid every week. I watched them on Saturday night when they played Granada. I thought Ronaldo scored a great goal again, only it was for the other team...”
The Portugal international has been in great form for Mourinho’s side, but the team as a whole has struggled and went down 1-0 to Granada last weekend, courtesy of a Ronaldo own goal.
As for the match, Ferguson said he expects squad selection to be key.
“I’ve got the make sure I pick the right team. That’s the biggest challenge. We know their obvious strengths. The atmosphere will be absolutely fantastic. They don’t lose many games at the Bernabeu.”
Key to United’s hopes will be Robin Van Persie – the £24m summer signing from Arsenal. The Dutchman currently tops the Premier League goalscoring charts, and Ferguson revealed some of the secrets behind that transfer.
“I never thought we had a chance of getting Robin Van Persie because I didn’t think Arsenal would sell to us," contined Ferguson.
“My discussions with Arsene [Wenger] were good but long, probably a couple of months. They realised that the lad wanted to leave. It was a matter of negotiating the price with Arsene.”
But the United boss admits it was worth the wait.
“His first season with us has been phenomenal and he has given everybody a lift, in terms of his knowledge of the game and his ability.”
The question few United fans want to hear the answer to touches on the subject of Ferguson’s retirement – but the Old Trafford boss insists he’s got every intention of carrying on for the time being.
"This question comes up more and more simply because, as each year goes on, I get older. It's a fact of life. I can't avoid that. The issue is how I feel within myself.
"As you get older, you are not guaranteed your health. No-one is when you get into your 70s. Touch wood, my health remains for a long time yet. At the moment, everything is hunky dory, but you never know."