Sir Alex lines up transfer surprise at United
Sir Alex Ferguson played a game of tease ahead of Manchester United's Premier League opener with Newcastle by warning of a surprise within the next 48 hours.
In the build-up to another title defence, Ferguson played mounting speculation of Dimitar Berbatov's signing with a totally straight bat.
That was until he tired of the questioning and opted for a different tactic.
'You might be surprised at what is going to happen over the next two days,' he said.
Given Ferguson announced seven days ago he would have a new face in his squad for the arrival of Kevin Keegan's men, nothing should be taken at face value.
But it would be no major shock if the United boss was parading a big-money signing around Old Trafford on Sunday, even if club officials are continuing to dampen down speculation that hit fever pitch at lunchtime.
There was talk of a medical in the north-west taking place and even a spot being earmarked in the squad to face Kevin Keegan's men. The truth was that Berbatov was in London, with Tottenham, preparing to travel north for a game at Middlesbrough.
'I cannot give you an answer because there isn't one,' said Ferguson, when asked whether he still expected to bring in a new player.
'We have been trying to add to the squad but nothing has changed, I have nothing else to say.'
If, as expected, Berbatov becomes a United player over the next few days, he will gain an official seal of approval from Owen Hargreaves, who played for Bayern Munich in the striker's Bayer Leverkusen days.
'Berbatov is a fabulous player, who would be a fine addition to any team,' said the England midfielder.
'The thing is, if Manchester United sign a player, it has to be a top player and that would be exciting for us all.
'Obviously, you can never have too many strikers, although I don't actually think we need to improve on too much from last season.'
Ferguson desperately needs a striker, of that there is no doubt.
Berbatov is the preferred choice but if Tottenham wait too long before deciding whether to sell a player who clearly wants to leave, they may find United have gone elsewhere.
David Villa, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Thierry Henry have all been mentioned in recent days and it is not beyond Ferguson's ability to move fast given it is another two weeks before the transfer deadline.
For now though, the Scot must use what he has.
That means once again the emphasis will be on some of the older members of his squad, specifically Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
Approaching 35 and 34 respectively, the longevity of the pair is astounding, let alone the hunger of players who have won 18 league championships between them.
'We do have to protect the old dinosaurs a little bit more but they are all fit guys,' said Ferguson.
'Giggs' endurance test was the best in the club this summer, which is unbelievable. I don't know what he is made of.
'He has never carried any weight either and has always looked after himself, so he will play a lot of games for us.
'Paul Scholes is much the same, as is Gary Neville. There is plenty of football left in them as well.'
Nevertheless, Ferguson needs one more experienced forward.
Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney will carry the fight against a Newcastle side which conceded 11 in two meetings with United last term and has not won at Old Trafford since 1971.
But more demanding tests lie ahead, not least in the Super Cup two weeks from now, a game which requires the postponement of a Premier League encounter with Fulham and, thanks to an uncomfortable memory, also demands Ferguson's full attention.
'Last time we reached the Super Cup I made the mistake of playing Lazio with half a team because we had Newcastle straight afterwards,' he said.
'But when I saw them celebrating I was angry. They thought they had won the World Cup.
'I want to win that match and I also want to win the World Club Championship because I have never understood why the fact we were the first British team to win it - Liverpool have had five attempts - never got any praise.'