What began as a casual reply slowly gravitated up through the scales of indignation, to a conclusion which revealed that Sir Alex Ferguson is all too aware that the sacrifice of a Premier League title by losing to Chelsea tomorrow would represent a capitulation of Devon Loch proportions.
It was not so much what he said but how much, when asked yesterday whether being known for all time as "the team that lost a 15-point lead" was in his Manchester United players' minds, ahead of another season-defining match with Carlo Ancelotti's team. "I don't know how many points we were in front of Chelsea at any given time. It doesn't matter," Ferguson said. (It was actually 15 before United's defeat at Stamford Bridge on 1 March.)
"Where we are today is exactly where we are. It doesn't matter what happened last Sunday, four Sundays ago, four months ago, four years ago, we are where we are. We have three games left, three points ahead, same goal difference, playing at home, two home games and one away. That's where we are."
Ferguson (right) protested a little too much and in the Kevin Keegan household this weekend, there will surely be a sense of satisfaction that the United manager, who drove Keegan to don those studio headphones 15 years ago as United reeled in Newcastle's 12-point advantage, may be finding the boot on the other foot.
Ferguson, who said that Wayne Rooney "was ok" but did not offer a convincing sense that he would be fit to face Ancelotti's side tomorrow, did admit to some fear – about another of those Chelsea match controversies besetting this potential title decider. "That's definitely our big fear to be honest with you," Ferguson said, before he described Howard Webb as "definitely the best referee in the country". Ferguson added that "we hope it's our turn for a little bit of luck" in the officiating department.
The United manager still feels he can afford to contemplate a record 19th title at the club who had won only seven when he arrived, 24 years ago. "You don't [envisage it]. Getting the first was the target. I got it and since then the club has taken off."
Decisions against United:
* Lee Bowyer's late equaliser at Birmingham in December came after a push.
* Jamie Carragher was not sent off for a bad tackle on Nani at Anfield.
* No penalty in the 0-0 draw at Newcastle last month after Javier Hernandez was tripped.
And those in their favour:
* Gary Neville avoids red in the 2-1 win at Stoke.
* Nani allowed to score after a handball against Spurs.
* Gary Neville not sent off at West Bromwich for a professional foul.
* Nemanja Vidic not sent off for a professional foul in 4-2 win at West Ham last month.
* Wayne Rooney unpunished for elbowing Wigan's James McCarthy.
* No penalty after Evra fouls Chelsea's Ramires.Reuse content