Last updated : 12 August 2004 By Editor

Right from the moment the plane touched down at Bucharest's international airport yesterday, I knew I was going to have trouble with Alex Ferguson.

Sir Taggart hadn't noticed me on the flight out from Manchester. The big cheeses from Old Trafford were sat at the front travelling business class. The hacks were herded together in the cheap seats at the back.

Mind you, I was happy about that. Well have you ever heard of a plane backing into a mountain?

But the Fiery One noticed me alright when we landed in Bucharest. His eyes almost popped out of their sockets.

"You," he spluttered. "You. What are you doing here? Can't get into Europe with your own team so you have to latch on to us. Well I'm telling you nowt you little Blue spy."

Nice to be made welcome, isn't it? Within half-an-hour I was face-to-face again with the old fire breather. This time it was at the official press conference in United's Bucharest hotel.

The Hilton is where the Reds are staying ahead of tonight's Champions League qualifer. And very nice it is, too. I wish I had booked in there myself. Now that really would have cooked Fergie's goose wouldn't it?

Sir Taggart answered the first few questions with his usual mixture of courtesy and clarity, so I thought I'd chip in with my own two pennies worth.

Well, the Evening News hadn't paid for me to come to Romania to sit here like a stuffed dummy.

You see, on the way out I'd heard that the pitch in the National Stadium where tonight's match will be staged leaves a bit to be desired.

In fact, if what I'd heard was true, there are better pitches in Debdale Park in January than the one which the Reds will be performing on tonight.

So I asked Fergie what I thought was an eminently sensible question.
"Manager," I said. "Is the condition of the pitch on which you will play the match against Dinamo a worry for you?"

Do you know what Taggart did? He burst out laughing. And everyone else in the press conference fell about laughing as well. I've not been so embarrassed since I chatted up a girl in a bar in Amsterdam and found out she was a fella.

"Oh it's a bad pitch alright," chortled Fergie, who was red in face by now after his laughing fit.

"It's as bad as the one your team plays on at the City of Manchester Stadium," (more gales of laughter from all and sundry).

The giggling knight of the realm didn't understand who he was dealing with. I've been mocked by experts. He wasn't going to silence the voice of the Manchester Evening News, so I tried again.

"Mister Manager," I said in a voice even firmer than before, "have you settled in your mind on the team you will field against Dinamo Bucharest?"

Do you know what Taggart did? He burst out laughing again. And everyone else in the press conference fell about laughing again. It was getting more and more like a Morecambe and Wise routine.

Finally, Fergie pulled himself together sufficiently enough to give me an answer.

"You think you are talking to Kevin don't you?" he wheezed. "And Kevin would give you an answer wouldn't he? But you're not talking to Kevin and you ain't getting my team."

By now I had my dander up. Knight or not, the manager sat up there on the stage with the red face and the heaving shoulders wasn't going to get the better of me.

"Mister Ferguson," I demanded in my sternest voice, "are you going to burst out laughing every time I ask you a question while we are together in Bucharest?"

Do you know what Taggart did? Of course you know what he did. He burst out laughing. "That's it," he said, wiping the tears from he eyes, "press conference over."

Trust me on this one - I'm a journalist. He's not heard the last of this yet - and neither have you.

Before we leave Romanian soil I'm going to get a straight answer one way or the other out of Mr High and Mighty Alex Ferguson.

King Kevin would never dream of treating me this way.