That whole experience was more painful than my hip replacement," Sir Alex Ferguson remarked on negotiating with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy for Dimitar Berbatov.
In the Twitter age, Levy has become a meme mocked up as Doctor Evil demanding exorbitant sums and the 55-year-old is possibly a more skillful negotiator than Henry Kissinger. He extracted £30.75million for Berbatov in 2008 and United ended up paying almost double their initial offer for Michael Carrick two years earlier.
"I always remember I thought it was done and David Gill phoned me on the golf course to say they want more," Ferguson recalled of the Carrick discussions earlier this year. "Typical Daniel Levy!"
Levy was so off-putting Ferguson abandoned a move for Luka Modric in 2011, which was a flawed excuse after Paul Scholes had just retired and United had gone four years without reinforcing their central midfield, steamrollered by Barcelona in two Champions League finals.
Six years on, Jose Mourinho is not as easily dissuaded and he remains eager to sign another Spurs midfielder in Eric Dier. The 23-year-old boyhood United fan is believed to be keen on moving north, where he would at least double his £70,000 weekly salary in North London and arrive a first-teamer.
An early 20-something Tottenham regular and England international on a five-year contract, Dier is a borderline unattainable player in the current market and Spurs are such a genuine force in English football United supporters have heckled them about nearly winning the league. 'Lads, it's Tottenham' has a different meaning.
Spurs have already reacted to last night's developments by reiterating he is not unsettled at the club. The clichéd 'not for sale at any price' quote has been trotted out, too. With Levy, every player has a price.