Oxford United and West Bromwich Albion have proved to be the bookends in arguably the greatest managerial reign of all time. On 8 November 1986, Alex Ferguson (no Sir back then) took charge of Manchester United for the first time, in a match that resulted in a 2-0 defeat away to Oxford.
On 19 May 2013, he will travel away once more, this time to the Hawthorns, to oversee the team he has transformed for one final occasion.
Will his team selection be one of sense or sentiment? Will there be room for the want-away Wayne Rooney? Will the other man saying farewell – Paul Scholes – be given one last start?
The goalkeeper and defence usually pick themselves. However the manager has already intimated that there will be a few changes this afternoon.
With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic likely to be rested, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans will come in to replace them. Patrice Evra should continue at left-back, but with Rafael missing through suspension, there is a space on the opposite side; a space Antonio Valencia is likely to fill.
In midfield, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa appear to be Ferguson’s “wingers” of choice. While in the centre, the newly-crowned Players’ Player of the Year Michael Carrick should start alongside Paul Scholes in his 718th and final game.
And don’t be surprised to see Ryan Giggs start behind Robin van Persie. Ferguson will find it hard not to pick both Giggs and Scholes from the start on his last opportunity to do so.
The line-up is likely to be considerably different from the one that incoming manager David Moyes picks for his first game in charge. But that is a thought for another day. For now it is all about the end of a legacy.
So what do you think? Are these the players to start Ferguson’s last game in charge?
image: © tomjoad