He may be perplexed at the transfer business of neighbours Manchester City, but it has not prevented Sir Alex Ferguson from breaking new ground himself in the pursuit of new players. The United manager admitted yesterday that he signed Bebe, who cost £7.4m from Vitoria de Guimaraes, last week without even seeing the player on a DVD.
The striker, 20, had only joined Vitoria from Estrela da Amadora five weeks before that but, in contrast to City's protracted pursuits of James Milner, Yaya Touré and the rest, Ferguson had little choice but to trust in his staff and take the plunge.
Real Madrid and Benfica were both plotting moves for the forward, who grew up on the streets in Portugal, and a week after he first learnt of United's interest, Bebe was completing his move after talks with chief executive David Gill. Ferguson, 68, has been in management since 1974 and with almost a quarter of a century at Old Trafford has signed hundreds of players in a huge variety of circumstances. But the surprise move for Bebe, who joined Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez as Ferguson's only summer additions, was a new one for the United manager.
"I didn't see any videos of him, it's the first time," Ferguson said. "Normally, as in the case of Javier and Chris, I saw plenty of video footage of them. You've got to trust your staff at times and our scout in Portugal was adamant we must do something quickly. So I sent David Gill down there to do the deal.
"You'd have to ask Real how interested they were but I know they were hovering and so were Benfica. So were one or two other clubs and that's where you have to make quick decisions in life and I'm not too bad about that. I also spoke to Carlos Queiroz about him. Sometimes you have to go on an instinct, you look at material. You look at their age and whether they're bringing pace, balance, desire to play and things like that."
Bebe has been training at Carrington for the past few days but if Ferguson remained in any doubt about his new signing's qualities, they were ended with his succinct summary of himself.
"I'm fast, I kick well and I score a lot of goals," Bebe said through a translator. "I feel good. It is an opportunity that has been given to me and now I have to grab it and work very hard. It was only one week from hearing about the interest to signing. I have always wanted to play in a foreign team either United or Chelsea but a team like Man United is a dream come true for any player."
With a summer outlay of around £25m following a similar spend on Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen last summer, Ferguson does not see United's policy of targeting youth changing soon.
He maintains there is money to spend, merely that he is loathe to pay inflated asking prices, 13 months after United received £80m from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo. Ferguson has backed off potential moves for Karim Benzema, Franck Ribéry and David Villa in the past year, while insisting that there is little value around.
"We could have bought one or two players for a lot of money in the summer," he added. "But I didn't necessarily see that they were going to make us really so much better. Take away the money, the players we looked at maybe would not have done what Eric Cantona did for us for instance or Wayne Rooney or Ronaldo did for us. It is one of the important policies at the club that we identify young players who can grow into the club and develop. We have always worked on the age factor. We have several players in their 30s, a few in their mid to late 20s and the rest are all young players who are improving all the time. I feel it is the right policy for Manchester United."Reuse content