Darren salvages the Fergusons' weekend
Perhaps the weekend wasn't a complete disaster for the Ferguson family after all, as Darren's Peterborough team won the League One play-off final at Old Trafford to bounce straight back into the Championship.
Sir Alex's Manchester United might have been given a hiding by Barcelona at Wembley on Saturday night, but Posh left Huddersfield Town stunned and shell-shocked with a burst of three goals in seven minutes late in their contest to settle what had been a feisty and fairly even match.
The Posh squad had spent the evening before their outing at Old Trafford watching the Champions League final at their hotel. Full-back Mark Little is one of several United fans in the Posh ranks and he wore the Manchester club's shirt, while Darren apparently returned to his room when his dad's team conceded their second goal.
But for Posh's United supporters at least, Saturday's disappointment was forgotten as they clinched victory at Old Trafford.
"It was a really important game, especially after watching dad lose on Saturday night," said Ferguson. "I have just spoken to him and he is delighted for me. It has put a smile back on his face. At least one of us has got a result this weekend."
The 3-0 scoreline slightly flattered the Cambridgeshire side but they retained possession better than their opponents and arguably showed more ambition, although Huddersfield did improve after the break.
The final minutes were almost cruel for the Town supporters watching from the Streford End as Posh carved open their beaten and deflated opponents at will and the Peterborough fans taunted their Huddersfield fans with chants of 'you're not singing anymore'.
Even the heavy cloud cover that had hung over Manchester all weekend gave way to glorious sunshine that bathed a large section of the Peterborough fans for the final few minutes of the contest.
As the Town players sunk to their knees at the final whistle, Ferguson was embraced by his backroom staff before making his way towards his club's fans, fists pumping in jubilation as he celebrated his third promotion in four years at Posh.
Sunday's victory ends a remarkable season for Ferguson, who started it at Preston but was sacked before the turn of the year. Despite opting for a change of manager, North End could not avoid relegation and will play in League One next season. Ferguson is moving in a different direction after taking Posh into the Championship for a second time.
"I take no pleasure at all in Preston being relegated," added Ferguson. "That does not come into it at all. I am not a bitter man.
"If you want to be a manager you will have ups and down and you have got to deal with them. I could have gone into my shell but I am determined to succeed."
A Ferguson winning at Old Trafford - nothing new there
Ferguson was in charge of Posh from 2007-09 as they won back-to-back promotions and his decision to return to the club in January is starting to look very shrewd.
He quickly made some slight tactical changes, including the introduction of a diamond formation in midfield that was designed to bring the best out of attacking midfielder George Boyd and skipper Grant McCann. Both players were excellent on Sunday, with each claiming an assist while McCann completed the scoring with an excellent free-kick.
McCann has now won three play-off finals with three different clubs at three different venues, after success with Cheltenham at the Millennium Stadium and Scunthorpe at Wembley before his victory at Old Trafford.
Boyd, a dangerous presence who seems to thrive in the free role behind the front two that Ferguson has given him, is now looking forward to returning to the Championship, after starting last season in the second tier with Posh before a largely disappointing loan spell at Nottingham Forest.
"We are a lot more experienced at Peterborough and I know we have learnt a lot of lessons from what happened last season," said Boyd. "To go to grounds like West Ham will be unbelievable."
Peterborough had four managers during their 2009-10 Championship campaign and finished bottom, but there is much to be applauded about them this season. They have been an extremely entertaining team, who pour forward with what at times appears to verge on reckless abandon. They scored 106 goals in the regular season and conceded 75, meaning that each fixture had an average of 3.93 goals per game.
Craig Mackail-Smith, who seems certain to leave the club in the summer, scored 27 goals during the regular season and found the net in all three play-off games. He buzzed around the Town backline with his customary energy and determination in the final and struck the killer second goal with a deflected strike.
But Posh should also be applauded for keeping clean sheets when it mattered most.
They were woeful in the first leg of their play-off semi-final at MK Dons and could have
easily sustained a decisive reverse. They were fortunate to only lose 3-2. However, they did not concede in the second leg at London Road and kept out Town in the final.
"What won us the final was not conceding when Town had a real go at us," concluded Ferguson.
In a way Sunday offered a glimpse of what the Yorkshire club can become. The Terriers sold in the region of 32,000 tickets and their end at Old Trafford was resplendent in striped blue and white. Chairman and owner Dean Hoyle paid for a T-shirt with the club's crest and the word 'believe' to be placed on every seat.
But one man who is struggling to pick out the positives at the moment is manager Lee Clark. He looked like a broken man as he discussed the game afterwards. His voice was little more than a mumble, and many of his answers were punctuated by long, deep sighs.
"We have had an unbelievable season but we have not achieved our goal," said Clark." What is eating away at me is the 3-0 scoreline. It makes it look as though the game was so much against our team."
Over the closing months of the season Clark selected a 4-4-2 system for home games, with loan striker Benik Afobe partnered up front by Jordan Rhodes. Away from the Galpharm Stadium he has opted for a more defensive 4-5-1, with Rhodes dropping to the bench. Town had won the last six away games of the regular season and drew at Bournemouth in their play-off match, so it is perhaps understandable that he chose the more defensive option.
However, it did not really work all that well against Posh. In the first half Town seemed more intent on shutting down their opponents than creating opportunities of their own.
The Terriers were much improved after the break but the tone for the contest had arguably been set by then.
"Our game is about possession, you watch Barcelona and you know you will not reach that level but that is what we want to do," added Boyd. "Huddersfield tried to pack the midfield but we found the space to get on the ball."
Clark had been under huge pressure to deliver promotion and admitted that he was physically and mentally drained.
"I need to get away and spend some quality time with my wife and children," added the Town boss.
Counterpart Ferguson leaves for his holidays on Tuesday. Before that he has a meeting with Posh chairman Darragh McAnthony as they plot their forthcoming Championship campaign.
One game of football has determined that two different men and everyone associated with the clubs they manage will have vastly different summers.