London: For almost 27 years, Old Trafford has witnessed Alex Ferguson venting his anger from the dugout, berating officials, anxiously checking his watch and making celebratory jigs down the touchline.
On Sunday, 76,000 fans have one final chance to witness — and savour — the most successful manager in British football history taking charge of Manchester United on home soil.
With the title wrapped up, the Swansea match is effectively meaningless, but the United players will want to give their retiring manager a suitable send-off from Old Trafford.
“After losing two of the last three fixtures at Old Trafford, the onus is on the champions to put on a show and provide an occasion fitting for the greatest ever manager,” United announced on its website.
The United players also want Ferguson to lift the Premier League trophy on Sunday.
Usually the captain — Nemanja Vidic — would hold the trophy aloft when it is presented to the triumphant side, as it will be to United after their clash with Swansea.
But given that legendary manager Ferguson is retiring, the squad want the Scot to be the centre of attention.
A source close to the United squad said: “'The players think Alex should pick up the trophy.
“It’s going to be an emotional day for everybody at the club anyway, but the roar when he lifts the trophy will be absolutely incredible.”
Ferguson will address supporters on the pitch after the game on what is likely to prove an emotionally charged afternoon.
Ferguson is yet to explain why he has decided to bring an end to a United career that has yielded almost 50 trophies since 1986.
But former England coach Fabio Capello offered an insight on Friday, following a phone call with Ferguson.
“A few months ago he told me that he was going to stay on," Capello said. “The news of his retirement really surprised me. I called him and he told me that he decided this way because of excess stress. …He told me that now he’ll go and travel a bit, have fun and see the world with his wife.”
It was his wife Cathy who persuaded Ferguson to reverse previous retirement plans for the end of the 2001-02 season — ensuring he went on to establish himself as the most successful manager Britain has produced.
That Ferguson is leaving on his own terms from Old Trafford would have seemed unthinkable during his early days with United when it took him four years to win his first trophy — the FA Cup — and another three to land the Premier League.
Ferguson is being replaced by a manager in his own mould — fellow Glasgow native David Moyes, who is leaving Everton after 11 years.
“It’s obviously a big change because this club’s been run for so long under the same person,” United midfielder Michael Carrick said.
Not only the players, even Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini sent a letter to his rival Ferguson to offer his best wishes.
“It is his decision,” Mancini, who also revealed he sent Ferguson a message following the news, said.
“For me, it has been a great honour and pleasure to compete against Alex for three years. It was a great honour to beat him in Old Trafford and I wish him good luck for his future. I don’t know for which reasons (he is retiring).” (Agencies)