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Jan 20, 2013

Ferguson: United can claim the treble

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United have the potential to repeat their 1999 treble heroics, insisting the Premier League leaders can extend their gap at the top when they face Tottenham on Sunday.

• Preview: Tottenham v Man Utd
• Ferguson: Clubs must stop diving

United claimed the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League titles in the 1998-99 season and Ferguson is confident his side is capable of asserting themselves in all three competitions.

With Manchester City closing United's lead to four points with a win over Fulham on Saturday, Ferguson is aware of the significance the next month has for the Red Devils, with cup clashes against Real Madrid and Fulham threatening to hamper his ambitions of a triple crown.

"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."

Ferguson has often praised the depth in United's squad as a key factor behind their success this season, with the busy fixture list forcing him to make a number of changes for cup games.

Although his rotation policy has been questioned by some players and fans, the United boss is certain it allows him to select a strong line-up against tougher opponents.

"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."

United's trip to White Hart Lane will revive ill memories of Ferguson's failed attempts to sign Spurs winger Gareth Bale while the Welshman was at Southampton, although the 71-year-old claims the attacking forces at his disposal have compensated for that loss.

"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."

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