His overall demeanour is an admix of the hardheaded businessman with a penchant for mentally computing numbers, a stoic acceptance of the inevitable flux of the human condition and a generosity that the cynics would say is rare among his race.
But the single issue where there is not a smidgen of deviation from his inner core is the Incomprehensible Scot’s abiding love for what he terms “tha fitbah”. Of late though, his long-held admiration for Manchester United has taken something akin to a bloody nose.
So it was with something approaching mixed feelings that the Incomprehensible One joined some scattered members under the sullen pewter skies of a decidedly wet Highveld afternoon to watch Man United take on an overawed Reading in a third-round FA Cup tie. “Reddin,” he said, “tha’s a Champyunshup side, is it no?” Assured that this was indeed the case, the Incomprehensible One was somewhat mollified and settled down to watch.
Until, that is, he caught sight of United’s manager Jose Mourinho’s face on the touchline. “Tha Merino,” he said, voicing his mispronounced cryptic displeasure at the most recent of the managerial experiments at Old Trafford, “yon’s nah reet fir Manyoo. Tha’s no an Alex Ferguson.”
The latter remark was made in a no-so-subtle reference to the season United have struggled through since the Scottish knight retired. But barely seven minutes into the tie, the Scot had something to celebrate as Wayne Rooney’s outstretched foot steered in the opening goal to put United ahead of a nervous Reading and draw level with Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goal-scoring record at the fabled club.
Ensconced in the United directors’ box, blinking through his glasses under a dark, brimmed hat, Charlton looked somewhat nonplussed as his wife Norma sat alongside him, applauding generously. “Tha’s grayte,” remarked the Incomprehensible One, echoing Lady Norma’s reaction. “Bobby there ta see it. Yon Rooney’ll brek tha reckird, merk ma wirds.”
But, from the Scot’s point of view, if not from that of Reading and their manager, Jaap Stam, a former United stalwart – “a hird bustid”, was the Incomprehensible One’s summation – things were to get even better. It was left to 21-year-old French international Anthony Martial to rap home a second with Rooney involved in the action as the hosts took control.
But it was left to another young player, 19-year-old Marcus Rashford to wrap things up, adding a third before doubling his tally after a horrible error by Reading keeper Ali Al-Habsi gifted the forward his brace with a miskick of truly epic proportions. But for the Scot, this was enough. “Wull,” said the Incomprehensible One, despite recent league statistics proving the opposite, “Manyoo wun fir once. Tha meks a change.” Perhaps, was the overwhelming feeling, he wasn’t always that meticulous about his statistics.