Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Ferguson surprised by stand honour

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson was able to celebrate three points on Saturday courtesy of a scrappy 1-0 win over Sunderland but the headlines were grabbed by the announcement that the huge north stand at Old Trafford was being renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand

The 69-year-old had walked onto the pitch through a guard of honour made up of both teams and Sunderland boss Steve Bruce, who lifted the first Premier League title of Ferguson's rein in 1993, before United chief executive David Gill revealed the club's permanent tribute.

Ferguson said of the moment when the sign was unveiled: "I was really emotional. I couldn't believe it. I didn't expect that. I have to thank the club, it's fantastic of them to do that. I'm really proud of this moment. Mike Phelan knew about it but never told me, so he's sacked! I had absolutely no idea."

Ferguson felt the occasion had affected his players, who struggled to find anything like their best form, and in the end it was one of Ferguson's former players, defender Wes Brown, who broke the deadlock with an own goal in first-half injury time.

"It was a long day for me," said the United boss. "I'd have been quite happy if the referee had blown the whistle when we went 1-0 up and finish the game at half-time. It was an anxious day for the players and I think they showed that today. They improved in the second half but that last 15 minutes was torture. Sunderland threw everything into it and played very well."

"I think the players wanted to do well for me and that showed. These occasions can be a bit that way. I remember when we celebrated the (50th) anniversary of the Munich air disaster and we lost to City here 2-0. It certainly got to the players that day no question and there was maybe a bit of that today."

While Sunderland failed to seriously trouble Anders Lindegaard, given a rare Premier League start in goal, there was a worrying moment for United in the 68th minute when referee Lee Mason appeared to award the visitors a penalty.

It was his assistant Jake Collin who flagged after deciding Phil Jones had handled a cross from Sebastian Larsson but, with Larsson waiting to take the spot-kick, Mason changed his mind, ruling it was Ji Dong-won who had put his hand on the ball instead.

Ferguson said: "I couldn't believe it because I clearly felt it was the Korean boy who handled it. The fact he (Collin) has put his arm across his shoulder, it's a penalty kick.

"I don't think Lee Mason had any idea why, and you saw how the players reacted, and he's given the correct decision."

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