Sir Alex Ferguson received a huge standing ovation at Old Trafford on Saturday as the former Manchester United manager returned to the stadium for the first time since undergoing emergency brain surgery in May.
Ferguson was described by the stadium announcer as “truly one of our own” and “without question one of the greatest figures in the club’s history” as he made his way to his seat in the directors’ box just before United’s Premier League clash with Wolves kicked off.
And the fans in attendance welcomed him with a deafening roar and an extended round of applause, while the 76-year-old smiled widely, waved, clapped his hands and pumped both fists.
United had earlier posted a picture of Ferguson arriving at the ground on their official Twitter account, with a caption reading: “Welcome back to Old Trafford, Sir Alex.”
Ferguson had said in a video message released by the club in July, in which he also thanked medical staff who had cared for him, that he intended to be back at Old Trafford to watch United in the coming season.
And he told MUTV on Saturday ahead of the match: “I’m really good.
“Obviously it’s been a long journey and I’m gradually making steps forward, doing what my son tells me and what the doctors tell me, so, yeah, I’m really good.
“I’m a bit nervous, to be honest with you, maybe a bit tense really because I think my last game was Arsenal back in April. It was a long time but it’s great to be back and I just hope we get a win today.
“It’s great to go back to the stadium and it’s going to be quite emotional for me when the game starts, things like that. It had to happen some time and I’ve been looking forward to it. The important thing was getting the right time and the right rest before coming to a game.
“It’s bound to be emotional. Particularly when I take my seat in the box. That will be something, you know. I’ll be glad when it gets over and the game starts and I can enjoy it.”
Ferguson added when asked about the messages of support he had received: “It was unbelievable.
“There were thousands of cards, and they kept arriving at Salford Royal Hospital. I’d left by that time but they kept coming and kept coming. The number of emails, texts and personal cards to the house, it was just amazing. It really was.
“I’m overcome by it and overwhelmed by it. I think, if you remember, I did the message to thank the people who had taken the time to send me messages. It was really important to do that.
“Some of the doctors are here (as special guests) who did the operation and I thought it was the right thing to do. It’s great to be back.”
Ferguson, who retired in 2013, won 38 trophies during a 26-year spell in charge of United, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues. Prior to that he won 11 trophies with Aberdeen.
United’s post featuring the picture of Ferguson was retweeted by United coach and former midfielder Michael Carrick, who added an emoji of hands raised in celebration. Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel also retweeted the post and wrote: “Welcome back boss.”
After the game, which finished in a 1-1 draw, United boss Jose Mourinho said when asked about Ferguson: “It’s fantastic news for everyone – not just for the Manchester United family, I think for everybody.
“Who in the world of football, even in the world, is not happy with Sir Alex Ferguson back and healthy? So, great news for everyone.”