The list of potential replacements had been drawn up long before the axe fell. The Guardian’s Frank Keating named the contenders as Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Don Howe and even Bryan Robson in a player-manager capacity. Others had Terry Venables as the favourite. For the board, however, one figure had long since been elevated above the rest.
“There might have been a few names mentioned – probably just whoever was popular at the time – but none of them was seriously considered,” recalls Edwards. “It was a unanimous decision from the board to go for Alex Ferguson. He was absolutely the preferred choice of all of us.
“We’d first met him when we signed Gordon Strachan from Aberdeen. Gordon had already signed a contract with Cologne and we really wanted to extricate him from that deal, so that’s when Alex came in. He was batting on Manchester United’s side, probably because he wanted him to come to United but also because the move would get Aberdeen more money if he did. So he was very helpful to us and that’s when I first got to know him.
“We knew how well he’d done in overtaking Glasgow Rangers and Celtic and he’d won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983 against the mighty Real Madrid, so his pedigree was there. When we actually met him and realised what a firebrand he was and saw the way he conducted himself, that really just confirmed how impressive he was.”
With the target agreed, United’s kingmakers nevertheless had to tread carefully. There was no guarantee that Ferguson would either want or be allowed to leave Pittodrie, especially in the midst of such spectacular and sustained feather-ruffling of Glasgow’s Old Firm.