Man United on verge of making history

Martin Rogers

Sir Alex Ferguson is letting everyone else do the talking about Manchester United's potential history-making quintuple of trophies. Don't be fooled.

After steering his team to a penalty shootout victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling Cup final on Sunday, Ferguson played down the chances of his rampant squad ending the season with five trophies.

His face told a different story, though, and there can be no question that the 67-year-old Scot has his sights on what would be the most remarkable achievement in European club soccer history.

With the Club World Cup and now the Carling Cup safely stashed in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet, and the English Premier League title within United's grasp, all eyes will turn to the FA Cup and the Champions League. The latter will provide the toughest test, with a stack of the continent's top teams lining up to stand in the Red Devils' way.

Yet there is no side in better form just now, and Ferguson's group has even managed to withstand key injuries while building its superb season.

So where would the five-trophy haul rank if United could achieve it? Right at the very top.

Liverpool won five trophies in 2000, but the Reds played in the UEFA Cup, not the Champions League, and did not win the EPL.

United's 1999 "treble" of EPL, FA Cup and Champions League crowns is widely regarded as Europe's best-ever achievement. To repeat that – while adding two more prizes – would be off the charts.

So watch closely over the next couple of months. We could be witnessing history unfold before our eyes.

Weekend First XI

1. Get him an Advil

Pep Guardiola was the hottest boss in soccer just a month or so ago, as Barcelona continued its march toward domestic and European glory. However, the Catalan side has cooled off dramatically in recent weeks and last weekend's 4-3 defeat to Atletico Madrid means it is now just four points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Guardiola has shown he knows how to get the likes of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry functioning as a unit. Now he needs to prove he can turn around a slump.

2. Get him a beer

Rafa Benitez's hopes of lifting the Premier League title have all but disappeared, yet the Liverpool boss enjoyed one significant victory this week. Benitez won his internal power struggle when it was revealed that club chief executive Rick Parry will leave at the end of the season – greatly increasing the chances that the Spaniard will agree to a new contract.

3. Get him some earplugs

FIFA has unveiled plans to introduce a referee behind each goal on a trial basis for next season. That's great in principle, but pity the poor official when he rules on a controversial decision that loosens the tongues of the home support. And visiting goalkeepers thought they had it tough.

4. Four corners

• Could FIFA president Sepp Blatter have actually come up with a good idea for once?

• Out of Europe and out of contention in Serie A, why would AC Milan bother signing David Beckham now?

• Whisper it now, but could we be lucky enough to see a European Championships NOT hosted by two countries?

• Or will it, sadly, be a joint arrangement for the third Euros in succession?

5. Catch a flight to …

Madrid. The Spanish capital is where it's at next Saturday, as Real Madrid takes on Atletico Madrid in what promises to be a hotly contested derby between two in-form teams.

6. A round of applause for …

Michael Parkhurst. The United States defender made his full debut for Danish club Nordsjaelland on Sunday and impressed in a 2-2 draw with Vejle.

7. Get them a Kleenex

Palermo. The Serie A side was thrashed 4-0 by Catania in the Sicilian derby, including a wonder goal from Giuseppe Mascara.

8. Get ready to say hello to …

Raul. The Real Madrid superstar has announced he is contemplating a one- or two-year stint in Major League Soccer after he plays his last game for Real in 2011. While Raul's profile and reputation would help the image of MLS, he would be 33 by the time he arrived and not necessarily a good investment.

9. Get ready to say goodbye to …

Marc Burch. The D.C. United defender is not guaranteed a permanent first-team place this season and may explore options in Europe if his United career goes south.

10. Get excited about …

Hertha Berlin. The German Bundesliga leader is playing some superb soccer and has a real chance of securing its first league title in nearly 70 years.

11. Why it's good to be a soccer player

Take a look at Pamela Diaz, girlfriend of Chilean forward Manuel Neira.

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