Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson still has the measure of the media
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Given that Sir Alex Ferguson is in his 27th year as Manchester United manager you would have thought that people might have got the measure of him by now.
Yet, even at the age of 71, his capacity to surprise and keep everybody on their toes was a joy to behold in the Old Trafford press room before Saturday's game.
It was at about 1 o'clock that some of those who were there to cover the game for national newspapers and television channels started to get frantic calls on their mobiles. 'What do you mean Giggs wasn't on the bus?'
It was supposed to be a great celebration of the career of Ryan Giggs, his 1000th game of senior football.
All the talk before the game was about this remarkable impending milestone but the spies committed enough to count the players off the Manchester United team bus and into the Old Trafford dressing room were the first to realise that Sir Alex was not in the party mood. Hence the 999 emergency calls to those who needed to swiftly rub out all the Giggs gratitude they had been brushing up on.
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He will always have a special place in my heart. Not for anything he has done on the pitch but Ryan Giggs was the final sticker I needed to complete the official Premier League album in 1994. It was the only year I ever did manage to complete the entire collection thanks to the kind of tactical swapping that Sir Alex Ferguson himself would have approved of in the playground of Woodland View Middle school in Spixworth. I was 12 then. Blimey, Giggs has been playing for a long time, hasn't he?
It is dangerous to second guess a manager held in such high esteem that he already has a stand named after him and a statue watching over one of the car parks at Old Trafford. It is very unusual to see a statue at a football ground of someone who is still alive let alone still doing the work that built the statue.
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I was able to watch the latest Ferguson inspired flap in the press room with a wry smile. Some say BBC Radio Norfolk's coverage of Norwich City can be biased, I prefer to tell people that we cover games 'very much from Norwich's point of view'.
Giggs or no Giggs, our listeners on Saturday would be more interested to know which role Wes Hoolahan would be playing and whether Kei Kamara might have done enough to force his way into Chris Hughton's starting line-up.
I did get to experience my own sinking feeling around an hour after the rest of the press pack. We had just gone on air when the Manchester United's starting XI flashed up on a tiny monitor in front of me. I fiddled with the contrast control, adjusted the brightness and even switched it off and back on again but nothing made any difference.
Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie were still both in the Giggs-free line-up. So were De Gea, Vidic, Evra, Carrick etc. It wasn't supposed to be like that. United are playing Real Madrid tonight and with one eye on that and a 12-point cushion at the top of the Premier League this was a day when Sir Alex was going to gamble a bit and pick a team that might give Norwich a fair chance of coming away from Old Trafford with something. Reading the mind of the United manager is a fast track to a commentator's custard pie.
We did get our milestone in the end but so much work had gone into looking up all the Giggs facts and figures that no-one really knew how significant a Japanese hat-trick was.
Shinji Kagawa's well taken treble and a wonderful Rooney effort meant the sort of result that Ryan Giggs, watching from the stands, must have felt like he had seen a thousand times before.
• ANTI-BENITEZ FANS HAVE RAISED THE BANNER BAR
The fuss around Rafael Benitez's 'rant' last week underlines how run-of-the-mill manager's post-match interviews usually are.
I had seen the reaction to it online on Thursday morning and was rubbing my hands together with anticipation at the fireworks about to be let off when I finally got the chance to sit down and listen to what Chelsea's interim manager, pictured, had actually said.
Talk about a damp squib.
Anyone who thinks that was a proper rant needs to have another look at that tremendous Kevin Keegan 'I'd love it' interview from the mid-90's or remind themselves what it was like listening to Glenn Roeder after any Norwich City match refereed by Andy D'Urso.
The most interesting thing about this Benitez saga has been noticing how much banners have come on in recent years.
Spreading out a bed sheet and painting on 'Chase Out!' or, as that Wolves fan so memorably put it when Norwich beat them in the play-offs in 2002, 'You've Let Us Down Again' simply would not cut the mustard in 2013.
Most of the anti-Rafa signs on display at Stamford Bridge seem to have been professionally printed.
It is a millionaire's playground after all and it appears that some fans have been staying behind after work to do some important photocopying.
Apparently, one supporter even had a message written in big letters on his ipad ahead of Saturday's game which he then held aloft.
Not really being an arty type, it is hard to imagine the effort that goes in to producing a banner, whether it be properly laminated and spell checked or just splattered onto an old sheet.
People must give over entire rooms of their house, garages or sheds for a week in the build-up to a game to prepare these things. Then you have to get them to the ground, past the stewards and have thought of a way of displaying your message prominently enough for it all to be worth it before taking it home again.
It all seems like a lot of effort. It makes me wonder how many banners never actually get to a game.
Are there half-finished efforts hanging around in football fans' lofts that have been eagerly started in a fit of pique after a frustrating defeat before being abandoned on about the Thursday of the next week like some half-baked DIY project?
I know that would be the case if I ever attempted a banner.
But then I am the sort of person for whom DIY stands for Don't Involve Yourself.