Is this one big match Fergie cannot win?
AT Old Trafford on Saturday there was no doubt where the loyalty of Manchester United's fans lay in the dispute bespoiling the country's biggest sporting business. When it comes to choosing between the club's most significant employee - Sir Alex Ferguson - and John Magnier, its most substantial shareholder, everyone knew where they stood.
"Stand up if you love Fergie," rang out the chant as Ferguson emerged on to the pitch. Supporters rose as one to acclaim the man who has brought them so much over the last 17 years. Here were 65,000 reasons why Magnier might be wise not to take up his place in the directors' box.
Ferguson's smile was as wide as the Irish Sea. He needed the lift to his morale. Over the previous few weeks, his dispute with Magnier over the ownership of the racehorse Rock of Gibraltar, had provided him with a far more difficult challenge than anything in the Premiership. For perhaps the first time in his life, the manager whose career has been defined by an almost pathological refusal to accept defeat, has met his match. It is doubtful that Ferguson has ever watched Magnier buying a racehorse. If he had, he might have thought twice about suing.