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Mrs Ferguson halts Sir Alex's Oval visit

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson won't be in Belfast to see his team play Glentoran tonight - because his wife won't let him!

The Red Devils boss's legendary fierce temper has reduced many of football's hardmen to quivering wrecks - but that cuts no ice with Mrs Ferguson.

And Sir Alex will miss the glamour friendly because his better half Cathy, whom he married over four decades ago, has put her foot down and insisted he must help her to move house.

So it seems Scotsman Fergie, famed for his "hairdryer" blasts at under-performing players and media men who annoy him, has met his match.

And it's clear who wears the trousers in the Ferguson household.

Sir Alex (65) told the Belfast Telegraph: "I told Cathy 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."

Up to 14,000 fans are expected to pack into the Oval to watch the friendly to mark Glentoran's 125th anniversary.

Sir Alex - whose squad tonight features a host of first team stars - said the strong links between the Old Trafford club and Ulster were a major reason behind his decision to accept the east Belfast club's invitation to play.

He has had to split his first-team squad as they are also playing a friendly against Scottish First Division side Dunfermline.

And Sir Alex said his wife's determination to have him stay at home spared him having to choose between watching Glentoran or Scottish First Division side Dunfermline.

He added: "Actually she has saved me from making a difficult choice because my father played for the Glens but I also have close associations with Dunfermline, where I played the best football of my career before my transfer to Rangers."

Among the star names lining up for the Red Devils in Belfast tonight will be Premiership player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese winger's trickery and skill wowed fans all over England as United regained the title from Chelsea last season.

Also Belfast bound are established first teamers Rio Ferdinand, Edwin van der Sar, Michael Carrick and Ferguson's other summer captures, Nani and Anderson.

Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and £17m summer signing Owen Hargreaves are in Scotland, but Ronaldo's presence in Belfast will more than make up for their absence.

Glentoran director and Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers said he hoped the night would go down among the best in the club's history.

He said: "This is one of the biggest attractions for many, many years and it coincides with our 125th anniversary.

"We contacted a number of English clubs and Manchester United were the only team who responded in a favourable manner and we are most grateful to them."

Sport, Pages 58-60

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