Football clubs are usually leaky vessels; keeping a secret is virtually impossible.
News of an injury, a bust up or a transfer target almost always finds its way into the public domain. So it was all the more remarkable that the renaming of the North Stand to the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand came as a total shock to everybody (apart from an inner circle of just eight who were essential to the plans). The unveiling of the new lettering, done while Sir Alex stood mouth agape in the centre circle, was a moment of genuine emotion and was superbly handled by the club.
In the build-up to the manager's 25th anniversary, the boss was trying to play the whole thing down. “Let’s not get distracted by the all the fuss,” was the message in Saturday's programme notes. And yet he ended the day with a stand named after him and the commissioning of a statue. When I spoke to him after the game there was a sense of relief that the anniversary celebrations were over. But his parting shot was telling. “Now we can kick on,” he said, sights set firmly on the future.
What is definitely worth reflecting on, however, is United’s response to the Manchester derby debacle. Everyone had their say about United’s supposedly leaky defence but the four games since the City defeat have yielded four wins and four clean sheets. So the ship has been steadied and a platform has been built for a run of four months of fixtures uninterrupted by international breaks. This is where United usually turn on the style and, with some favourable fixtures between now and New Year, there could be a lot of happy faces in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand come 31 December (the manager's 70th birthday, by the way)!