The Directors’ Box at Old Trafford had a certain buzz about it even before Cristiano Ronaldo had netted a hat-trick to secure three points for Manchester United against Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday.
The padded-seat area in the south stand has hosted many a famous face over the years, but they do not all cause a stir in the way a certain 44-year-old American did on Saturday.
“Tom Brady’s in there,” was the whisper going around the corridors of Old Trafford three hours before kick-off.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion, Brady was a guest of United’s owners the Glazer family, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL franchise Brady had represented for the last two years prior to his retirement.
The quarterback watched with his sons, John and Benjamin, and will not have been disappointed with the performance he saw.
There was no sign of his supermodel wife, Gisele, or their daughter, as the trio enjoyed a boys’ day out at Old Trafford.
It started with a pre-match meal in the Directors’ Lounge, before a chat with Sir Alex Ferguson and the club’s former kitman, Albert Morgan, in Ferguson’s private room .;
While the other guests took to the stands before kick-off for an interview with the club’s in-house media, the NFL star stayed inside the Directors’ Lounge, where he posed for selfies, before taking his seat for the game in front of United’s chief executive, Richard Arnold.
He did not want any fanfare, but responded politely to every request for a picture from those who could get close to him.
Brady would not pick a preference over who he wanted to win ahead of kick-off, but instead took to his social media channels to say he was supporting both Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane.
The England captain is a huge fan of the New England Patriots legend, and met up with his idol in the Old Trafford tunnel after the game before getting on the Tottenham team bus.
Luckily for Brady, four of the five goals scored were by the two players he had turned up to support. He joined with everyone else in giving Ronaldo a standing ovation when he was substituted shortly after scoring his third and final goal.
Kane was not the only big Brady fan at Old Trafford on Saturday, though. Ten of the United first team waited pitchside long after the final whistle to have a chat with one of the icons of US sport.
Those who witnessed the exchange between Brady and the players said some of them looked like excited fans, awestruck by his presence as they asked if they could have pictures taken alongside him.
Brady and his two children had a group shot with David de Gea, Victor Lindelof, Fred, Scott McTominay, Phil Jones, Alex Telles, Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and Tom Heaton, before Ronaldo turned up to command an audience with him by himself.
The rest of the team stood and watched on as Ronaldo and Brady chatted about the game. Brady congratulated the Portuguese star on his three goals di lui, commending him for a “good game”, before the United No.7 handed his match-worn shirt over to Brady’s son di lui, Benjamin.
After a brief chat about family, Ronaldo asked Brady if he was finished playing – he had announced his retirement six weeks earlier – and the latter could only smile in response.
His return to the Buccaneers was confirmed a little over 24 hours later, suggesting he knew already that he was about to dominate the news agenda back home with an announcement on his future.
Some on social media are hailing Ronaldo’s influence over Brady but, given the way the United players were in awe of him, it showed he is just as much of an inspiration across world sport as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.