In the history of difficult questions it was far more middle of the road than Mid-Lothian.

It was May,2001. Manchester United were in Glasgow for Tom Boyd’s testimonial at Celtic Park. Sir Alex Ferguson, we had been told, would give the Scottish hacks a few minutes of his time after the game, which he certainly didn’t always do.

I had never been in the same room as the man before. The same could be said about most, if not all, of my immediate peers. Ferguson was long gone from Aberdeen by the time we had stabilisers taken off our notebooks.

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There would be no originality award for my light interrogation of this living legend but it had to be asked and, most importantly, it might just get the lads and I an easy back page, which are the best kind.

That day began with the sad news that Bobby Murdoch had died, the first of the Lisbon Lions to pass, and therefore it was timely that Fergie, a friend and peer of this wonderful footballer whose loss had dominated the night, was in town.

Indeed, that was my question: “Sir Alex, obviously tonight has been overshadowed by the death of Bobby Murdoch. Can I ask you what your memories are of him as a player and a man?” Easy. He’ll love that.

Fergie, as I would surely be able to call him soon, was in a good mood, laughing and joking with the likes of Rodger Baillie and Alan Davidson, who had known him for years, and so he would happy to take a question from a young buck.

And, no, that’s not rhyming slang.

I cleared my throat, waited for a pause in the banter, and began with: “Sir Alex . . .”

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Have you ever watched the Rumble in the Jungle? The look Muhammad Ali gives George Foreman as they touched gloves was one of hate, disrespect, and utter disdain. That’s what Fergie’s stare said to me and I’m no George Foreman.

The power of speech left me. Words, not my greatest strength, were gone. Utterly gone. I managed a few vowels for a bit as the walls closed in and my cheeks grew red; not helped, it must be said, by the giggles of some of my colleagues and so-called friends.

After an ice age, the question somehow stumbled out and, to be fair, Sir Alex’s answer was superb. He spoke of Murdoch being the heartbeat of the team and said something along the lines of Celtic’s talisman of 1967 as being priceless.

So, we got a back page. And once my heart started again, and my breath returned from its holidays, I was proud that I got "the line" for once and, best of all, was not in need off a new pair of trousers – although it was a close thing.

That’s it. That’s my Fergie story. It’s hardly Ulysses but if I wrote down what came out of my mouth that night it would have been as bewildering as anything Mr Joyce came up with.

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Marcello Lippi is the only other person who came close to possessing such sheer presence in my years in the job. Both living legends and, in the bloke from Govan’s case, I am very happy to say that is still the case.

Ferguson is 76 and has suffered with health problems down the years and yet people like him don’t get ill. They certainly don’t die. And over the weekend it did seem that this icon of Scottish life, and that’s what he is, was on his way out after undergoing emergency surgery following a brain haemorrhage.

Newspapers were preparing for the worst. Discussions were taking place on desks about whether there were enough hands on deck to produce a 20-page special.

Ach, we should have known. He’s way too stubborn to go before his time. Ferguson remains in hospital, but yesterday news emerged that he was awake and talking. Even those who would never claim to be his biggest fan breathed a sigh of relief.

If it is possible to be a genius as a football manager, then Sir Alex Ferguson is Beethoven, William Shakespeare and Steven Spielberg rolled into one. With a sprinkling of Rabbie Burns.

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Surely, it’s time his own city commissioned a statue of one of Glasgow’s greatest sons. A street named after him, a stand at Hampden. Anything, really. Before it’s too late.

Sir Alex is thankfully still with us so perhaps it is time for his own people to get together and show just much he means to us all. Just get someone else to ask him a question.

And Another Thing

Alas, it is now too late to pay such a tribute to Ron Scott, one of Scottish newspapers' great characters.

Big Ron passed away on Saturday a few hours after news of Sir Alex’s emergency surgery and his loss will be deeply felt. Indeed, Fergie sent Ron a message on his retirement.

A Sunday Post legend and proud son of Dundee, Ron was one I expected to see me out, despite him having 25 years on me.

I know he wasn’t sure of the cut of my gib until a tense trip to Lisbon forced me to order a large G&T after some work problems. “I like your style,” said Ron with great approval. I was chuffed to bits.