Dispatches from the future: The Manchester United press conference

Alex Livesey

What great secrets are Manchester United set to reveal on Sunday?

We'd been waiting for maybe 15 minutes, but it seemed like days. Journalists, packed like sardines in the bowels of Old Trafford, smiled sheepishly as they waited for the big moment. The relegation battle, the fight for the Champions League places, all of it paled into insignificance compared to this press conference.

We knew it was big. Nobody could afford to miss it. But we didn't know what it was about. It seemed too early for legitimate transfer news. The rumours that Sir Alex Ferguson would be stepping down were publicly rubbished by the great man himself on Thursday. Sponsorships and marketing don't involve a days-long buildup to the main event. The world was watching, and we were in the thick of it.

Karen Shotbolt, the press officer came out first, followed by Ferguson. I'd never seen him looking so old. Manchester United had just hoisted the Premier League trophy, but he barely seemed alive. Everyone wondered whether his earlier denials were a smokescreen.

I typed: 'BREAKING: Sir Alex Ferguson to retire at end of season!' into Twitter, ready to send at a moment's notice. The 71-year-old leaned forward, towards the microphone. He looked deadly serious.

"I've been at this club for going on 27 years now. We've just won the Premier League for the 13th time. It's times like this when you think to yourself, 'Is it over? Is there anything still left to do?' I've been in English football so long. Seen great players come and go. Great managers come and go. I've won everything there is to be won."

A collection of thumbs surreptitiously edged towards 'send'.

"But it's days like this that make you want to keep going forever." Gasps. "We have some incredible news to report." You could hear a pin drop. I considered wetting myself in sheer anticipation. "It is our understanding that..." Seconds stretched into centuries. "Inter Milan will bid €40 million for Gareth Bale this summer."

The shock was palpable. Paul Hayward let out a shrill scream. A chap from the Mail said shouted something about immigration before fainting mid-syllable. Hands tapped frantically on touchscreens. Ollie Kay frantically scribbled 'QATARI DREAM LEAGUE' in his notebook. The world would never be the same.

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