There, at Lancashire County Cricket Club, our unforgettable knight enjoyed a night to remember; a fittingly magnificent occasion conducted away from prying eyes and lenses. There, in a softer spotlight, the Boss could fully relax and acknowledge his feat of hauling Manchester United to its feet, dusting it down and sending it on its way to new frontiers.
Sir Alex's exclusive take on an incredible tale is the story everybody wants yet, bar last night's exclusive guest list, nobody has. All media – internal and external, domestic and international – have been rebuffed in their requests for the lowdown on how it feels to batten down one of the most pressurised jobs in football for quarter of a century.
Which is fair enough. He has a game against Sunderland on Saturday to prepare for and, as we are all acutely aware, the existing five point deficit between United and table-topping Manchester City won’t diminish without hard work. In the meantime, around him, all bar his most ardent opponents salute the greatest restoration job since Michelangelo touched up the Sistine Chapel.
The Manchester United that Alex Ferguson found in 1986 was a club undergoing an identity crisis; divorced from the prestige and romance which first enticed him to the job. Amid two decades of cumulative pain and frustration without a league title, the sporadic relief of FA Cup successes represented dilution of the standards set by Sir Matt Busby.
Wilf McGuinness, Frank O’Farrell, Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson all endeavoured, yet never managed, to build on Busby’s foundations. By the time the latter was dismissed in November 1986, United’s scouting and youth systems were in disrepair, while the senior setup was hampered by a social drinking culture and a lack of physical aptitude.