SIR ALEX FERGUSON believes Welsh prodigy Gareth Bale should study Manchester United's history in developing young players when he comes to deciding his future.
Teenage sensation Bale was in Manchester yesterday, but only as part of a Southampton side which crashed out of the FA Cup 3-1 to Stuart Pearce's City side.
Bale's best moment came late on when he forced an excellent save out of City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver.
Now the next 48 hours hold the key to Bale's future, with Ferguson admitting that rivals Tottenham Hotspur are in "pole position" to land the coveted Cardiff-born full-back after making a £10m bid last week.
"We offered an initial fee with add-ons, depending on how many games he plays, international caps and so on," said Ferguson, who had been due to undertake a personal spying mission at the City of Manchester Stadium yesterday.
"Southampton said no to us because they are looking for more money, which they have every right to do.
"The bid we made for Gareth reflected his potential. There were a series of build-ups in it because we have to protect our own club's assets too.
"I am not exactly sure what Tottenham have offered, but they have offered more and that has put them in pole position at the moment."
But Ferguson has not given up hope of signing the 17-year-old, who has become one of the most sought-after players of the transfer window, despite only a handful of Wales game and having fewer than 30 senior appearances for Southampton.
And the United boss rejected completely the theory Spurs may have an extra advantage in any bidding war because coach Martin Jol can guarantee him a first-team place at White Hart Lane.
"Anyone who guarantees a player first-team football every week is wrong," he said.
"There are so many examples of young players being given a chance at this club, no-one could dispute the fact they will get opportunities. Maybe the boy himself would need to assess that."