IT was a party more than two decades in the making, and a lucky Larne foursome were among the 75,000 guests.
Sir Alex Ferguson marked his final home match as manager of Manchester United on Sunday, May 12 by lifting the Premier League title for the 13th time.
And, in typically damp Machunian weather, Old Trafford bade a fond farewell to the feisty Scot who transformed the club into a trophy-winning powerhouse during his 26-year tenure.
Among the tens of thousands of fans who packed into the Theatre of Dreams was 45-year-old Paul Graham. As a member of the Larne branch of the Manchester United Supporters Club, Paul was fortunate enough to have access to match tickets for himself, his partner Joan Nelson and his parents John and Loua.
Paul booked the tickets for the game against Swansea City well in advance, in the knowledge that his beloved team would be lifting the most sought-after silverware in English football.
But as fate would have it, that same match would also be 71-year-old Sir Alex’s swansong at Old Trafford, having announced his retirement on Wednesday, May 8.
Life-long United fan Paul told the Times: “It was a very emotional, bittersweet day. I have been going to Old Trafford for many years, but the atmosphere at this game was unique. The place was absolutely buzzing; it was just unbelievable and was without a doubt one of the best experiences I have ever had as a United fan.
“Having the opportunity to be there and see off Sir Alex after all he has done for the club and for football in general is something I will never forget.
“We were sitting in the east stand and everyone had a flag under their seat; the stadium was just a sea of red. After the game, every pub in Manchester seemed to be packed with people celebrating. The fact that our closest rivals lost the FA Cup final on the same weekend we lifted the title and said goodbye to Sir Alex made it all the more special.”
Paul, from Regents Park, said he was “devastated” when he first heard that Sir Alex was stepping down.
“We have had 26 years of untold glory, but I think his successor David Moyes will do a good job once he has settled in,” Paul concluded.