Loyal fans make it a sour day for the sugar daddies

Sir Alex Ferguson has never known support like it. Guy Hodgson hears the heckles and the roof raised

Never have so many prawn sandwiches been discarded so quickly. The Stretford End implored Old Trafford to rise in support of Sir Alex Ferguson and the normally hushed Theatre of Dreams rocked to the sound of angry supporters.

It was a stirring demonstration of affection for the beleaguered Manchester United manager, who does not stir many positive feelings in non-supporters of the club but who is treated with the reverence of a religious leader by believers. Stuck between the Rock Of Gibraltar and a hard place since he fell out with John Magnier, Ferguson found a refuge in the backing of his fans yesterday.

The Irish racing magnate owns a quarter of the club with J P McManus and, given the reaction yesterday, precisely nil of the support of the people whose shares in United are not on paper but in their regard for the club. Leaflets, banners and obscene chants dragged Magnier's name through the mud of Old Trafford yesterday as robustly as a Roy Keane tackle.

Indeed, it was hard to see how yesterday could have gone better for Sir Alex who on Friday said it had been a bad week for his family but who could luxuriate in being top of the Premiership this morning. Only a half-decent show from Wes Brown, who passed and marked like he was Magnier's representative in the team, maybe, but that apart it was close to a perfect day.

On the way to the match, as the rain bounced off the pavements, representatives of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association were distributing leaflets spelling out a campaign that could become as dirty as the man alleged to have been rooting through Jason Ferguson's dustbins in recent weeks. "Just Say Neigh" the leaflets proclaimed but, in the small type, supporters were urged to contact Magnier's organisation to voice their disapproval and to attend race meetings where his horses were running.

"These are rich men with a greedy, selfish interest in the club," Jules Spencer, the IMUSA chairman, said of Magnier and McManus, "but they can be stopped just as Rupert Murdoch was. The only people we wish to see owning the club are its fans. No racehorse owners, and no sugar daddies."

Spencer also referred to Magnier's and McManus's "complete lack of interest" in United, but he hoped they would be watching the match on television if only to see the depth of opposition. "Supporters will be raising the roof," he added, "to make sure our feelings about them - and Alex Ferguson - are understood loud and clear." And, in an extraordinary show of defiance by Manchester United plc against major shareholders, the day was choreographed to give the supporters every chance to turn up the volume. Minutes before the kick-off Ferguson appeared from the dry of the dressing room to shake hands and share smiles with the club's chief executive, David Gill.

In theory it was to celebrate Ferguson's signing of a new contract that will earn him £4m a year, but, in front of a horde of photographers who will guarantee the pictures will be printed round the world, it was a piece of propaganda that Goebbels might have shied away from for being too obvert. Magnier and McManus might be trying to own the club but the club is a long way from being happy to be in their hands.

The celebration also gave the supporters a chance to applaud Ferguson's progress along the touchline, but if that was solid backing it was nothing to what happened 10 minutes into the game. "Stand Up If You Love Fergie" rang out and they stood. Not the Southampton fans or the Press Box, you understand, but those discontents apart Old Trafford was as one.

Ferguson even responded to the implorings to give the supporters a wave, something he is not always prone to do on days when his defence has all the solidity of a Swiss cheese. But, on an occasion when everything seemed hell bent on going his way, Louis Saha and Ruud Van Nistelrooy ensured that his smile at the end was as wide as the winning distance of Rock Of Gilbraltar.

"At the end of the day we're happy with the points," he said with relief. He will be happy at the points made to Magnier and McManus too.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas