MANCHESTER, England (AP) — A short walk from Old Trafford, a woman wearing a Manchester United shirt sat slumped over a pint of cider in a deserted pub.
Lifelong United fan Rita Doherty was watching the news of Alex Ferguson's retirement Wednesday on the TV sports channel.
"I'm devastated, I can't believe it," said Doherty, still clearly in shock and settling into her second pint in "The Trafford.'
"It's like a death in the family."
After waking up on her day off to the news that Ferguson was ending his illustrious 26 1/2-year stint as United manager, Doherty — a 45-year-old council worker from Derbyshire — took two buses and traveled two hours just to be at Old Trafford on this historic day for the club.
Yap Chao Wei, a 23-year-old Malaysian student, had the same idea. He travelled an hour from Wrexham, in north Wales, with his Chinese girlfriend, Macy Zhong, and sat in a daze on a bench overlooking a statue of Matt Busby, another legendary United manager.
"It's a shock," he said. "But United will always be the best."
On a momentous day for the 20-time English champions, shock, surprise and disbelief were the pervading feelings on an eerily quiet concourse outside the stadium at Old Trafford, except for the murmur of cranes lifting rubble in the distance.
Camera crews from TV channels all over the world — Sweden, Norway, China, among others — scattered around the ground. A member of a TV crew from Hong Kong said he had been dispatched to the northwest of England at late notice on Tuesday night after rumors of Ferguson's announcement spread.
Tourists from China took turns posing for photos in front of Ferguson's statue, outside the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, under grey, overcast skies. The weather summed up the mood on a grim day for United fans.
"He's a father-figure at United and that's what I look up to him as," said Dean Brandwood, a 24-year-old retail worker from Salford who stood holding his 1-year-old son, Benjamin. "I woke up this morning and I heard it on Sky Sports News immediately. A tear fell down.
"I was that gutted, seriously."
Workers in the club superstore reported a normal day's service. Stewards claimed it was a quieter day than normal in terms of visitors around the ground. A lone scarf-seller wandered around looking for clients.
"I thought there'd be more people here. It's eerie isn't it?" said Doherty, who made the same pilgrimage to Old Trafford following the death of United great George Best in 2005. "I am surprised how quiet it is."
Like most United fans milling about, Doherty believed David Moyes, the current Everton manager, should replace Ferguson.
"I know everyone is going on about Jose Mourinho, but I've seen David Moyes for years. He's done really well at Everton with not a lot of money and he's young," she said. "The doormen at the superstore said Moyes had been down here last month and had a look around the ground and a wander round."