Alex Ferguson has revealed how he was “smitten” with Liam Miller’s midfield intelligence the first time he saw the Cork man play.
The legendary Manchester United manager travelled to Glasgow 15 years ago to run the rule over then-Anderlecht defender Vincent Kompany in a Champions League game at Celtic — but came away on the night “totally determined” to get Miller to move from Glasgow to Manchester.
Many of his old Manchester United are in Cork today to pay tribute to Miller, who passed away earlier this year aged just 36.
Ferguson continues to recover from a brain haemorrhage suffered last May and has accepted that today’s tribute match — which he has been actively involved with since its inception — has come a little too soon for him to travel to Cork.
Fergie expressed “considerable disappointment” he will not be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, writing in the match programme.
Circumstances and advice from those who know better than I have decreed I stay put,” he said.
However, in recalling the circumstances in which Miller joined United 14 years ago, Ferguson revealed the intriguing details behind the move.
“When I went to the Celtic v Anderlecht Champions League tie in Glasgow in November 2003, it was to watch the Belgian defender Vincent Kompany,” he said. “However, my attention soon gravitated to Celtic’s energetic young midfielder, slight of stature but with an assured, calm way about him. What I witnessed was a player with a tremendous set of midfield fundamentals — his movement off the ball, his penetration of the Anderlecht midfield. I came away smitten by his performance, not least the timing of his runs. Leaving Parkhead I was totally determined to get Liam Miller to Manchester United.”
Fergie admitted United’s pursuit of Miller did not go down well at Parkhead, bringing about a “short period of unease and discontent between the two clubs. Fortunately, that was short-lived.”
Ferguson added: “Liam Miller’s legacy as a human being was that he was totally liked by everyone for his quiet, endearing nature.”
Meanwhile, organisers are encouraging attendees to come early to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the tribute match. Gates open at 12.45pm with pre-match musical entertainment ahead of the 3pm kickoff.
A gala dinner at City Hall will start with a drinks reception at 6.45pm. An auction is set to raise thousands more by the end of bidding tonight. Offers are already coming in for concert tickets, luxury breaks, matchday experiences, and memorabilia signed by football stars including Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, John Giles, and Rory McIlroy.
The bidding for the ‘Ultimate VIP experience’ from Manchester United had already reached €2,700. It includes a private tour of Old Trafford and United’s training ground, a meet-and-greet with the players, full hospitality in one of the club’s premium suites, and matchday seats in the directors’ box in the Bobby Charlton Stand. Bidders can register online via galabid.com/liam or through SMS by texting “liam” followed by your full name to 086 1800308.
The online auction will conclude tonight at 10.30pm.