Such is the strength in depth of Manchester United that they will field one impressive line-up in Northern Ireland tonight, another in Scotland and leave their finest box-to-box operator to work up a sweat in Cheshire. The latter being Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been told to help his wife with a house move today instead of watching United's pre-season programme come to a close against either Glentoran or Dunfermline.
Ferguson had been expected at East End Park for Carlos Tevez's debut as a United player, an appearance now expected to be delayed by red tape. But his own presence has been thwarted by the one authority figure to whom he is content to acquiesce. Cathy Ferguson, who talked her husband out of early retirement in 2002, has scheduled a move from the Fairfields family home in Wilmslow – a house named after the Govan shipyard where Ferguson's father and brother worked – to another luxury pad in the well-heeled town for today. Domesticity has therefore dealt another blow to the fearsome reputation of the fiery Scot.
"I told her I had a match that day but she wasn't having any of that. She said it was a friendly and that I had to help her," the United manager revealed last night. "Actually, she has saved me from making a difficult choice, because my father played for Glentoran but I also have close associations with Dunfermline, where I played the best football of my career before my transfer to Rangers."
Tevez is expected to be another notable absentee tonight as United have yet to receive the Argentine's registration papers from the Premier League following his highly controversial departure from West Ham. The striker will sign a two-year loan deal once his contract has been deemed acceptable by the Premier League and, though United expect confirmation to arrive before their first league game of the season against Reading on Sunday, it is unlikely to be in place in time for Tevez to gain some much-needed match practice at Dunfermline.
The striker's compatriot, Gabriel Heinze, is to take his dispute with United to a Premier League arbitration panel next week to try to hasten a £6.8m move to Liverpool. Heinze has requested that a three-man panel decides whether United gave him permission to leave Old Trafford for an agreed fee earlier this summer, an agreement the left-back claims to have in writing from the club's chief executive, David Gill, but which the club insist did not include a transfer to a rival Premiership club.
United maintain they made it clear to the Argentina defender both orally and by letter that he would not be permitted to join a domestic rival and next week's hearing will deal specifically with the dispute between the player, who has two years left on his current contract to run, and the club. Liverpool will have no input at the arbitration panel.