As the teams came out of the tunnel before Manchester United’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Burnley at Old Trafford, a giant banner was pulled across the Stretford End wishing a happy 80th birthday to Sir Alex Ferguson.
It is hard to believe Ferguson has reached such a landmark, partly because it means that by the end of this season, nine years will have elapsed since he vacated the Old Trafford hotseat.
Ever since then, United have been trying desperately to restore their status as England’s number one club, which they assumed with authority for so much of Ferguson’s reign.
Twelve months ago, they seemed to be getting close. They were top of the Premier League on New Year’s Day.
The intervening year has not been good to United. Their title challenge faded before January was through, they lost another semi-final to Manchester City and the Europa League final to Villarreal. And, after losing their way completely during a disastrous autumn, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job.
Ralf Rangnick’s stuttering start at Old Trafford at least sparked back to life quickly enough for United to end the year in the top six, as they have done every year since 1989.
But, evidently, the German still has a lot of work ahead of him.