The 74-year-old, in Dublin for a special charity event with Rory McIlroy, reminisced about losing the Premier League title in the cruellest fashion to neighbours Manchester City on the final day of the 2012 season.
United had done their part by beating Sunderland only to learn following the full-time whistle of City’s late and decisive comeback against QPR. As the disconsolate Red Devils boss marched down the tunnel at the Stadium of Light, greeting him was a player he’d handed his United debut to 13 years earlier.
“The first person I met was John O’Shea and he was crying,” recalled Ferguson. “He said ‘sorry boss, what can I say?’.
“We’d won the league for 30 seconds that day. Then, I heard the Sunderland fans starting to chant.”
In response, Ferguson emulated his habit of following up a second-place finish by claiming the title 12 months later. By the time he’d achieved that turnaround for the sixth occasion in 2012, he was ready to retire.
His decision, however, may have been reversed had his team stumbled on the run-in.
“I decided to retire in December of that season after my wife Kathy’s sister had died,” he explained.
“She missed her terribly and unlike the previous time when I wanted to retire, all she said was ‘are you sure?’ which meant she didn’t mind.
“I thought that we’d win the title that season because Robin van Persie was brilliant for us. If we hadn’t won the league, though, I don’t know what I’d have done.
“I don’t regret retiring as I’m still keeping busy.”
Despite MC James Nesbitt not pressing Fergie on the question marks which linger over Louis van Gaal’s future, he made much of the club’s backing of him before the glory years arrived.
Admitting the Mark Robins FA Cup third-round winner against Nottingham Forest in 1990 could ultimately have saved him the sack, the veteran intimated United like to be patient with their managers.
“If we’d lost to Forest and crowds had down further, who’s to say what might have happened?” he confessed. “The club may have been forced into it. All I knew was support was there from directors Martin Edwards and Bobby Charlton. They never lied to me. They told me to keep doing what I was doing and things would come right.
“Once I won the Premier League, it gave me control. I could always be remembered for winning the league.
“I would still say to any parent the best club to have their boy at is Manchester United. That’s because we always give them a chance.
“Look at Marcus Rashford. He’d never been heard of until 10 games ago and now he could be going to the Euros for England.”