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Fergie: Let commence Jose war

Alex Ferguson cannot wait to lock horns with Jose Mourinho again.

The Manchester United boss insists he has no idea whether Mourinho is heading back to Chelsea in the summer.

However, reports claiming the Portuguese's return to Stamford Bridge will be confirmed on July 1 have a ring of truth about them, given it is widely thought Real Madrid's Champions League demise will herald Mourinho's exit from the Bernabeu.

And if the charismatic coach does return to the club he led to successive Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, it is a competition Ferguson would relish.

"Absolutely," said the Scot. "It will get me angry again.

"I have no idea what Jose is doing but going back is a big attraction for him."

Whilst Ferguson's meetings with Mourinho have always been keenly fought, most recently in this season's Champions League, a mutual respect is obvious.

The same cannot be said of Ferguson's feelings for Rafael Benitez, who was yesterday named Manager of the Month for April, just a few weeks before he's expected to leave Stamford Bridge.

Benitez has come out on top in their two meetings since he was appointed the interim replacement for Roberto di Matteo, securing a draw at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-final before Demba Ba's solitary goal in the replay sent Chelsea into the last four.

The two will lock horns again tomorrow as Chelsea bid to secure their Champions League slot, but Ferguson can already look to next season and what his team will need to retain their title and challenge on all fronts.

Ferguson is still disappointed at Southampton over their refusal to entertain discussions with Manchester United about the sale of Gareth Bale back in 2007.

United wanted to sign Bale as cover for Patrice Evra. Yet Saints opted not to do business, with the Wales international switching to Tottenham.

Since then, Bale has gone on to become a major Premier League force, having moved out of defence into a forward position, and has just scooped both major footballer of the year prizes at the expense of United striker Robin van Persie.

There have been hints Ferguson would make a move for Bale in the summer if Tottenham miss out on a place in next season's Champions League. Such a transfer would cost United a sizeable sum, in all probability smashing their £30.75million transfer record for Dimitar Berbatov.

And it all could have been avoided if Southampton had just returned that call.

"We were disappointed in Southampton because we were first there but they never came back to us," said Ferguson. "He was a left-back when we tried to sign him from Southampton.

"He reminds me a bit of when we signed Lee Sharpe. He was a six foot, gangly slim boy but all of a sudden he was built like a light-heavyweight American boxer.

"Bale is the same given the way he has developed physically in the last two years. He has matured very well."

Confirmation of Van Persie being named April's player of the month for his six goals in five games underlines how unlucky the 29-year-old was to miss out on the prestigious Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' Association honours.

However, as the Dutchman's 10-match barren streak coincided with Bale's best form of the campaign, and voting for those individual prizes, Ferguson has few complaints.

"You can't dispute it," he said. "Some of the goals Bale has scored this year have been fantastic. Robin is a little bit unlucky. There is not much between the two of them."

Along with Robert Lewandowski and Radamel Falcao, Bale is one of the names most regularly mentioned as potential Ferguson transfer targets this summer.