“I know he’s got a reputation for blowing hot and cold, but I’d have remembered if he’d gone off his head that afternoon – I think he spent the first few weeks assessing what he had, trying to sort it all out, which he did do.”
Albiston wasn’t one of those who’d incurred the displeasure of their new manager by going to Big Ron’s farewell drink on the Thursday night – the day he was sacked and Ferguson agreed to take over – considering it inappropriate. “I had a great relationship with Ron, I signed for him at West Brom a couple of years later, but even just going along somewhere for an hour, which is what the night was, just didn’t feel the right thing to do. People come and go in football and you just get on with it.”
Out of the title race and dumped out of the League Cup by Southampton 48 hours earlier, there appeared little to toast at Old Trafford. The timing of the incident, discussed by Sir Alex in his 1999 autobiography, Managing My Life, had left a rather bitter taste in the new boss’s mouth. “When I heard about these activities, I could hardly bear to contemplate the implication that the players involved did not care a monkey’s about the fact that I was arriving as their boss the next morning,” he said.
Paul McGrath, who played in midfield at the Manor Ground, was clearly feeling the after-effects of his refuelling on the Saturday. “He did not have the stamina for the job. He was so knackered I had to take him off,” said Ferguson.
The culture of “social club, not football club” as Ferguson noted, had to go and of course it did. There were also early signs that the senior players felt their new boss was a man to be reckoned with. Mike Duxbury says: