Congratulations on reaching the top of Mount Everest – presumably a long-held ambition?
Yes, it has been my ambition to climb Everest for the last few years, but not just for the glory and achievement. More importantly, I also wanted to understand and feel the effects of extreme altitude and know the mountain better so that I can treat people better and provide better help, support and guidance in case of an emergency on the mountain for rescue operations. I had climbed many other peaks below 7,000 metres to prepare myself for the ultimate challenge. Now I have the full picture of what Everest is like.
How long did your climb take, and who did you climb with?
Our expedition took 50 days in total from leaving Kathmandu. After our final acclimatisation rotation, it took me four days to trek from our basecamp to the summit and back to basecamp. I was leading a team of 16 climbers including clients from Canada, Britain, Argentina, USA, Austria and India and, of course, some Sherpas. I actually climbed to the summit without a supporting Sherpa, instead carrying three heavy oxygen cylinders myself so I could really respect and appreciate the work that Sherpas do on the mountain. Many people claim mountaineering records, but hardly anybody speaks about the Sherpas who are behind their success.
If you could climb Everest with one player or person from United, past or present, who would you choose?
I would choose Ryan Giggs to climb with me. He's a legend, and he's been at United throughout the many years I've been supporting the team.
Has anyone at United, or any of the club’s achievements, ever inspired you when you are mountain climbing or working to rescue someone?
I have always been inspired by Sir Alex Ferguson for his outstanding leadership and I would love to lead on the mountain like he did in English football for the past 26 years. Mountain climbing is a bit like football - good leadership, team work and a little bit of luck are necessary for a successful summit.
TV commentators sometimes say a team “has a mountain to climb” if they are losing 3-0 or worse… what do you think about that phrase?
I think the phrase “has a mountain to climb” does make sense in that situation because it's not easy to score four goals and win unless magic happens on the pitch. Climbing mountains is not that easy