Leed United manager and former Crawley Town boss Steve Evans has always regarded Sir Alex Ferguson as his hero.
He has sometimes quoted him in interviews and as well as his enduring passion for football, has his upbringing in Glasgow in common with the managerial master.
But in February 2011 he finally got to meet him when the two Red Devils clashed at the Theatre of Dreams in the FA Cup fifth Round.
Sir Alex gave him a lesson in winetasting as well as a surprisingly generous amount of his time.
The moment clearly had a big impact on Evans as he has recalled it in detail in an interview in the Times.
“With 76 minutes on the clock, I heard Sir Alex (Ferguson) tell Mike Phelan, ‘If these score, they’ll beat us.” Ferguson’s side held on to win 1-0. “I learned a lot. Manchester United treated Crawley as if we were Real Madrid. Sir Alex treated me as if I were Jose Mourinho, probably better because we could talk about Glasgow. I love the man dearly. He’s an icon.
“After the game, little Albert the Manchester United kit man came to me and said, ‘The gaffer’s in his office, waiting for you.’ I went in with this famous bottle of wine for him, Sir Alex opens the box and looks at the bottle. ‘Rothschild, 2004 vintage. Not the best.’ And shuts the box. He turns to the man behind the bar and says, ‘Give him a nice glass of that Ernie Els wine.’
“He turns to me and says, do you know Ernie Els, the golfer?’ ‘I’ve heard of him, Sir Alex.’ ‘He sent you a letter.’ It’s addressed to me. Sir Alex opens it. Hi Steve, I’m a good friend of Sir Alex, you’re at Old Trafford today in a memorable Cup tie. Please enjoy some wine that Sir Alex will give you to take home from our vineyard. Keep in touch. Ernie Els.’ And a cellphone number. I’ve never tried it! I’m up with the letter, but down £275 with the bottle!
“Anyway, there’s a knock on the door and this immaculate old boy walks in. ‘Sir Alex, are you doing the press today? ‘Not after the way we played.’ Sir Alex says to me, ‘You might never be back, son, go and enjoy it.’ He walked me to the press room and stopped outside. ‘How many press do you get at Crawley?’ ‘Eight,’ I exaggerated. ‘You get one or two more here.’ I went in and it felt like 500.
“Sir Alex waited for me. We went down to the tunnel. Sir Alex’s car was there. The pristine man said, ‘Sir Alex we’ve got your car ready , temperature controlled, your jacket’s hanging up in the back.’ I look in the car and the box of wine was on the passenger seat! ‘Listen, son, that’s a fantastic vintage, I’m having that tonight, and hugged me.
“I introduced him to my wife and daughters and he chatted to them. I told him there would be a huddle of people outside, family and friends from Glasgow. He drives out, stops, gets out, did 50 selfies. They’re all mad Celtic fans, and he’s Rangers. My brother said, you should have managed Celtic.’ Sir Alex gave him the famous Glasgow look. Sir Alex is class. He told my brothers that I would go a lot higher.”
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