In the direct aftermath of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement announcement, it appeared to have been the best kept secret in sport.
While we all knew he was getting older, somehow the news came as more of a shock than if it had been delivered years earlier. It appeared the manager had reached a point at Manchester United where he would never retire.
Having made the decision last December, he later revealed that it remained between him and his wife until March, when they told their sons. It later transpired that his brother didn’t know until the week we all did.
When Arsene Wenger said he wasn’t surprised that the United manager had called it a day, that he “detected a few signs” during the negotiations for Robin van Persie, his words were taken with a pinch of salt.
Hindsight makes geniuses of us all. And following a hundred headlines all declaring the same thing, it was easy for the Arsenal manager to say he had an inkling of football’s next big twist.
But following quotes from Jose Mourinho that he didn’t just think, he knew, that Ferguson was on his way, was the sport’s biggest secret actually anything but?
“I knew that Ferguson was retiring many months ago,” the Chelsea manager said, “and I was so happy to have his trust.
“It was big news for the world. Why do I know that? Because we are friends.”
When managers make their names in the midst of rivalry, when their lives are engulfed in the need and desire to beat each other, the concept of managers being friends is a little strange. But it shouldn’t be.
Just as footballers are enemies (at least in a sporting sense) on the pitch, many are friends off it. And just as we all share our innermost secrets with our best friends, there is every chance that Ferguson unburdened his mind on at least one man who knew exactly how heavy that secret would be.
We are unlikely to hear much from Ferguson now. He has had his say. He has had plenty of them.
As a result we may never know exactly who did or didn’t know his decision prior to that first press release.
But following the latest revelations from Mourinho, one thing seems likely – Ferguson trusted and had the trust of some of his greatest rivals; a fact that only makes his legacy that much stronger.
Do you believe that Mourinho knew of Ferguson's plans? And did Wenger also know he was set to depart?
image: © tomjoad