The problem with such high profile book launches is that due to the huge amount of press coverage that accompanies such an event, it can often feel like you’ve read the publication even before getting your hands on a copy.
But there was certainly no lack of enthusiasm among the expectant audience that assembled at The Bridgewater Hall from late afternoon to see Sir Alex Ferguson speak with BBC Sport’s Dan Walker to mark the release of Leading; the latest book from the most successful British football manager ever.
You could say there was even something of a pre-match feel in the nearby pubs and on the street outside, with a couple of ticket touts and a few United songs thrown in for that genuine match-day authenticity.
So after a slight problem with Walker’s microphone meant things got off to something of a false start (it wasn’t his fault), Ferguson was finally introduced to the stage at 7.43pm (he was running late himself because he wanted to watch the end of Egg Heads) to a standing ovation.
Yes. Much of the subjects discussed had been covered before in recent interviews with Sky’s Jim White and Walker himself for Football Focus, which aired the following day.
But just being in the same room, hearing stories of being offered the England manager’s job (twice), tempting Jock Stein to drink wine despite being tee total, and how a flock of geese inspired Europe to a Ryder Cup win, were enough to have every one of those in attendance riveted.
And whether it’s due to his faultless research and a keen eye for a good question, or simply a sense of familiarity after many in-depth one-on-one interviews, something of a father-and-son chemistry has developed between Ferguson and his interviewer – meaning our guest for the evening seemed more than relaxed and happy in his surroundings.
Anyone who had showed up purely for controversy would have been disappointed however, as previous and well documented spats with Messrs Keane, Beckham, Ince, etc were neatly side-stepped.
In fact, somewhat surprisingly, Ferguson was actually keen to pour praise on former rivals Dalglish, Wenger and Mourinho as the discussion naturally veered towards management skills and leadership qualities.
Obviously the furore over his comments about only ever having four world class players (Scholes, Ronaldo, Giggs and Cantona) in his time at United couldn’t be avoided as Ferguson claimed he didn’t realise that revelation would cause shockwaves in the footballing world.
That quartet were all individual “game-changers,” he claimed before going on to explain:
“They didn’t win trophies, the team won trophies.”
But it was the people surrounding the club that Sir Alex said was one of the things he missed most about no longer being in charge, claiming his communication skills had been behind so much of the success he brought to the club.
“I always communicated with the chairman,” he said. “But I also communicated with the girls in the cafe, and all the staff at the club.”
As for any regrets he may have had during his 26 years in charge: “I think we should have had more than the three Champion’s Leagues,” he added. “But I can’t look at the career I had at United as a failure.”
And for those wanting to experience Ferguson’s typically barbed comments up close and personal they would have been thrilled when the time came to discuss United’s most recent title rivals and those “noisy neighbours,” who became something of a nemesis during his final years at Old Trafford.
“Well’, you have to give them credit,” he proclaimed reluctantly. “They’ve done a lot to re-develop that part of the city.”
At the end of the evening Sir Alex rose to another huge ovation. And while Dan Walker attempted to escort him off the stage like James Brown at the end of The Ed Sullivan Show, he made sure he stopped to sign every book, shirt ticket, or whatever else was gently passed in his direction – a nice touch from a genuine football man and a legend of the world game.
Alex Ferguson was in conversation with Dan Walker at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on Friday 25th of September. His new book, “Leading,” written with Michael Moritz is out now.