IT is not often, as Alex Ferguson sagely observed, that men still living are able to glimpse themselves immortalised in bronze.
Gazing approvingly at the Philip Jackson statue of himself, unveiled at Old Trafford before a rapturous audience of fans, family and former players, he jested: "Normally people die before they see their statue. I'm outliving death!"
The pose captured by the sculptor was quintessential Ferguson: arms folded, eyes staring dead ahead, with the faintest hint of a smile flickering at the edges of his tightly pursed lips. It exuded absolute authority.
The emotion in Ferguson's speech was unmistakeable as he reflected upon his "incredible journey" at Manchester United, which has encompassed 26 years, 37 trophies and countless personal accolades.
In the VIP seats outside the stadium were not only Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona and the entire United first team, but all the members of Ferguson's immediate family. There was even a rare public appearance by his wife Cathy, who pulled the cord for the unveiling.
"Somebody has to control me and she's the only one who can," Ferguson quipped, adding: "She has promised that every Saturday morning she'll come down and bow to the statue."
With greater earnestness, Ferguson, who turns 71 next month, reflected: "It's fantastic, a really proud moment. Now my three sons, daughters-in-law and all my grandchildren can all come down here on the bus on a Saturday.
"I've had so many great players, some of whom are here. They should build a statue for them, because they have been marvellous.
"From 1986 right through to today, the players have given us enormous pleasure."
Ferguson's aura is such that 2,000 United fans turned up to experience the moment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)