'Had to do it,' the man said, handing a prized item to his teenage son. 'I watched the tributes on the telly last night and I made up my mind I had to be here. I was 13 in 1958, Matt meant everything to me when I was the boy's age.
'For Christ's sake, don't mention my name,' he added. 'The wife would kill me if she knew I paid this much.'
Along the Warwick Road the open-air bazaar which blooms on United match days was equally quick to pay its respects. 'Get your Sir Matt tributes here,' said a trader waving T-shirts bearing the words 'Matt Busby 1909-1994: the legend lives on.' 'Only a fiver,' he said.
He had sold about 30, he said. The 31st sale arrived as he spoke, to a Scotsman who had clearly taken the bucolic approach to the wake.
Closer to the stadium, the shouts of the touts, the fanzine sellers and the T-shirt men ('Get your Cantona, only a fiver') were submerged in a thick envelope of silence.
Everyone was heading to the Munich memorial clock in front of which an ocean of man- made fabric in red, black, green and gold spread across the forecourt, the shrine to the architect of Old Trafford that had built up over the last two days.
Held back by crash barriers, the fans, 50-deep, stared at the field of mementoes: scrap books, newspaper cuttings, framed pictures, teddy bears holding miniature European Cups and emotional hand-
written notes: 'Sir Matt, you came from heaven and made Old Trafford Nirvana.' People were holding cameras aloft, desperate to record the event as above their heads a slow rain of scarves and flowers dropped on to the shrine.
A red-faced man in his sixties called Dave stood at the crash barriers clutching an untidy knot of carnations. He hadn't got a ticket. 'It doesn't matter if I don't get in. I just had to be here, ' he said. He had come from Dublin.
Inside the stadium, the great and the good were gathered in the directors' box (Angus Deayton, Peter Brooke and George Best were there). An astonishing silence hung over the place as fans listened to an announcer, his voice cracking, reading out a message from Busby's family: 'Matt always had a smile on his face even during the last few days in hospital. For champions past and present, please sing the roof off the stadium today.' Meanwhile, United's manager, Alex Ferguson, was telling his players: 'Go out and play the way Sir Matt would have wanted.'
Composing himself, the public-address announcer then asked the fans to remain silent as the teams took to the pitch. After a couple of minutes' wait, a piper came out of the Stretford End tunnel, leading the teams with a lone lament. From the stands flash bulbs popped as the teams made their way to the centre circle, where they greeted the directors of both sides. Then in one long line Manchester United and Everton stood together, and, faced by a scrum of photographers normally associated with the Princess of Wales, they stood for one minute's profound silence. 'I've experienced some minute's silences before,' the United striker Mark Hughes said afterwards. 'But nothing as intense as that.'
In the stands eyes filled with tears and people chewed on their knuckles. And nowhere in the crowd of more than 44,000 people was the silence broken. When it was over, the United fans were asked to applaud Everton's dignified wedge of supporters in the south stand, whose complete silence was testament to the love all fans felt for Matt Busby. The response brought the biggest cheer of the afternoon. Until Ryan Giggs scored.Reuse content