Magical memories of 2012 - Football:'After losing the title in the cruellest way, Sir Alex Ferguson stood firm'
13 May: United are denied the title in heart-breaking style
Sir Alex Ferguson was stood on a football pitch when Manchester United had their hands wrenched off the Premier League trophy, deep in injury time, on the final day of the most dramatic finish to a season that anybody could ever remember.
Watching Ferguson that day, at the Stadium of Light, was a reminder of just why United have been the most dominant force in English football by a country mile for two decades. There was a roar from a pocket of Sunderland supporters, there was a twitch from Ferguson to where the cheer had come from, a quick question to a colleague to confirm what every instinct in his body told him had happened, that Manchester City had scored a third goal, another to follow Edin Dzeko's, and that the fairytale finish would not be his or his football club's after all, that it would belong to Manchester City and their fans.
Lesser men would have buckled at the enormity of that moment, when United's world appeared to have caved in. His side were not supposed to have a prayer on that final day of the season. Even his own belief was small, but it was enough to push his own team over the line, with a 1-0 victory. On such occasions, doing your own job can often be enough. Queen's Park Rangers scored twice at the Etihad Stadium and belief flowed through the veins of the Manchester United supporters stood behind the goal. Even they had not dared believe a magical day was about to unfold, that they could win it as City blew it. It was the dream of a football fan. It was the dream of a football club.
As the game at the Stadium of Light finished, Ferguson came on to the pitch with his players. At that point, they were the champions of England. Dzeko had just scored, but Manchester City were still drawing. English football may have to wait another 100 years for such tension, for such a finish.
Then came the fourth minute of injury time and Sergio Aguero's goal. United should have been crushed. Think of the tears that have flowed on football pitches; for a booking, for a missed penalty, for a cup defeat. For this, for losing the title in the most cruel fashion imaginable to your city rivals, Ferguson stood firm, like a fighter with an iron chin. There were some brisk handshakes, a wave to the travelling supporters and then he went down the tunnel to offer his congratulations to Manchester City for winning the title. Then came a promise that his side would fight harder than ever to win it back, and there was not a modicum of doubt in anyone's mind that he meant it.
Ferguson did not wallow in defeat as he has not drowned in success. He has set the agenda in English football for longer than most can remember. That final day of the season, when lesser men would have crumbled, was as visible an insight into why as you could possibly have had.
Olympics: ‘Mo, Jess and Greg gave us a night no one could forget’ 4 August: That night in the Olympic Stadium - James Lawton
Football: ‘When Chelsea saw off Barcelona, the joy was in watching the spoilers have their day’ 24 April: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (agg 2-3); Champions League semi-final second leg - Sam Wallace
Athletics: ‘The roar for Ennis made the hair stand up on the back of my neck’ 3 August: Opening day of track and field at the Olympics - Simon Turnbull
Rugby Union: ‘It was eerie seeing England sticking it to the silver fern’ 1 December: Manu Tuilagi waltzes to the try line as England smash New Zealand- Chris Hewett
Cycling: 'Bradley Wiggins' achievement was greatest we have ever seen from a Briton' 22 July: Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France - Alasdair Fotheringham
Football: ‘We’ll never encounter anything quite like it again’ 13 May: Manchester City win the title in thrilling style - Ian Herbert
Olympics: ‘Nobody personified it more than Hoy, the ultimate sportsman’ 27 July: Hoy leads out Team GB at the Games opening ceremony - Robin Scott-Elliot
Football: ‘An hour later Theo Walcott was a hero – given a standing ovation’ 26 February: Theo Walcott turns the jeers to cheers to steer Arsenal to derby victory - Glenn Moore
Golf: ‘This was it. The moment that would decide the Ryder Cup. A 10-footer for glory ... Get in!’ 30 September: Europe claim Ryder Cup in thrilling fashion - Kevin Garside
Boxing: ‘The fight was terrific from the first bell. It had urgency, nastiness' 14 July: David Haye v Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora - Steve Bunce
Tennis: ‘After Murray won he staggered in a daze, then held his head in his hands’ 11 September: Andy Murray ends Britain’s wait for a major - Paul Newman
Football: ‘That night Spain played thrilling, bold, beautiful football’ 1 July: Beautiful Spain smash Italy in the Euro 2012 final - Jack Pitt-Brooke
Formula One: ‘Kimi’s Lotus win was F1’s most romantic result’ 4 November: Kimi Raikkonen zooms to victory in Abu Dhabi - David Tremayne
Racing: ‘Frankel enlarged life’s comfort zone for us all’ 22 August: Juddmonte International Stakes; Frankel finally goes the full distance - Chris McGrath
Cricket: ‘A sweep for three and Cook had broken a 73-year-old landmark’ 6 December: Alastair Cook breaks England century record - Ste
Latest in Sport
Pornhub: Cheeky Liverpool fan uploads Philippe Coutinho wonder-goal video to adult website
Diego Costa keeps coin thrown at him during Capital One Cup final
Lukas Podolski corner: Has the Arsenal forward taken the worst corner of all time?
Tim Sherwood: 'Escape the drop and I’ll make sure Aston Villa do not suffer this again'
Ireland 19 England 9 player ratings: Jonathan Sexton? Devin Toner? Alex Goode? Who was the star man in Dublin?
- 1 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded