Schmeichel and Neville chuckle at Wayne Rooney’s Day Off
Paul Scholes is substituted for Anderson in his final game for the club during Sunday’s Premier League match against Swansea City at Old Trafford. Photograph: Getty Images
Dwight Yorke smiled, as he tends to do any way, “right ‘til the end, he’s stirring it all up,” he said after the team-sheets arrived in the Sky studio, Alex Ferguson’s farewell gift to Wayne Rooney a whole day off.
Peter Schmeichel and Gary Neville chuckled, exchanging knowing eyebrow-wiggles, no “for old time’s sake/letting bygones be bygones” even on the day that was in it. It might be retirement time, but there’s an unforgiving fire in that belly yet.
And then the Sky cameras switched to the monster banner that greeted visitors to Old Trafford yesterday, “To Be Continued,” it read, with Rooney the centre-pic, leaving you guessing the marketing department might not have consulted the gaffer in advance.
A heck of a week, as it proved.
Until The Announcement, the big sporting story might have been occasional snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan winning the World Championships again, and then admitting to Hazel Irvine after his triumph that he was “up and down like a whore’s drawers”.
That left Hazel – it being live telly and all – almost as traumatised as the United faithful on hearing The News.
So big was the news, in fact, even Channel 4’s Jon Snow was at Old Trafford on Wednesday, which Alistair Campbell, despite being a pal of Ferguson, thought strange.
“I must admit I’m quite surprised that you’re leading with this as opposed to the Queen’s speech,” he said, “but that probably says something about the paucity of the Queen’s speech – if I can be political just for the moment.”
“Alistair, you’ve had your Fergie time,” said Jon, shutting him up, this was no time for curmudgeons, certainly not one’s who reckoned the Queen’s speech was more significant than the Knight’s retirement.
Old Trafford yesterday and the mood, while melancholic-ish, was celebratory too, Manchester City’s FA Cup final defeat the day before giving everyone a lift after a trying week.
There was, though, sympathy for City’s supremo, need it be said: “Mancini, whoooah, Mancini, whooooah – we won our trophy back, and now you’ve got the sack.”
Time for a very rare interview with Paul Scholes who, like his boss, had just announced his retirement for a second time, Gary Neville given the task of squeezing a word out of him.
Just when you thought you really couldn’t love the fella any more . . . Neville asked him why he wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook or any of those social-ish media things.
Scholes: “What’s the point in telling people what you’re doing?”
A guard of honour and there was Ferguson, arriving with his hands in his pockets, greeted by a sea of, well, red flags flying high. Go on then, admit it, you blubbed like a baby. No? Hearts of stone.
A perfect moment, really, if you exclude the decision to accompany his arrival with The Impossible Dream, for fear the supporters’ voices might actually be heard. Wembley suffered the same affliction on Saturday, and come full-time yesterday Ryan Giggs had to endure Queen’s We are the Champions for the 13th time in his life. That’s, like, 13 times too many.
No matter, there was a lovely end to a special day, and who didn’t predict that Rio-first-goal-in-five-years-Ferdinand wouldn’t get the winner?
Full-time, and the man left the dug-out for the last time, and shares in Kleenex rocketed. Despondency from the faithful, relief, possibly, from those of different footballing faiths.
Sky invited a conveyor belt of former and current United players to pick out their most cherished moment under Ferguson. Giggs had quite a few to choose from, but opted, very beautifully, for the day, as a “13 or 14 year old”, when he was playing for Salford Boys, that he spotted Ferguson on the touchline, having turned up to watch him.
And the rest . . . sure, you know yourself.