A few years ago, Lady Ferguson, sick of looking at her husband’s trophies and medals on display all over the walls of their house, ordered him to take them down.
You might think Sir Alex, who defines himself by his triumphs and is — to say the least — a rather robust character, would have refused, or at least protested.
Instead, he obediently removed them, tucking them away out of his wife’s sight.
He is also banned from talking “shop” when he comes home from work to their £2 million mock Tudor mansion in Wilmslow, Cheshire.
For Cathy is the one person in the world who Sir Alex — the famously bullying, rude, intimidating manager of Manchester United, who retired this week after 26 years at the club — does not answer back to.
“Sir Alex Ferguson said his wife Cathy has always provided “stability and encouragement”.
“You’ll not find a thing about my career in the house,” Sir Alex, (71) said recently. “Cathy is fed up with the whole thing. She’s unbelievable. I can’t even take a football book home.”
At home, Cathy (74) runs the show, with the couple’s friends describing her as a woman of formidable presence. Despite that, she is also very private and has been photographed with Sir Alex just a handful of times during the 47 years they have been married — most recently last November, when she unveiled a three-metre tall bronze statue of her husband at United’s Old Trafford ground.
Her elusiveness makes her an intriguing character. Elegantly clad, she wore black tailored trousers and an extremely expensive-looking camel coat, accessorised with a smart handbag and silk scarf.
But Lady Ferguson, despite her chic appearance, is undoubtedly down to earth and remains firmly in touch with her working-class Glaswegian roots. She apparently squirms with embarrassment when people address her by her title.
As Sir Alex says: “My wife cringes every time someone calls me Sir Alex or her Lady Cathy. She says: “I don’t know why you accepted it in the first place.”’
In recent years, though, she has certainly come to appreciate the finer things in life. The mansion in Wilmslow, holidays each year on the Cote d’Azur in France, a luxurious timeshare apartment within the grounds of a five-star hotel at Loch Lomond: Sir Alex’s millions have afforded her a very comfortable lifestyle indeed.
They’ve come a long way from their first encounter, at a strike meeting at the Remington typewriter and shaver factory in Glasgow, where they both worked in the mid-60s.
They soon met again at the local Locarno dance hall but initially Cathy was unimpressed and told her friends as he passed: “Look at him — he looks a right bad yin.”
But Alex, who was also playing football for Dunfermline at the time, pursued her with characteristic single-mindedness.
“She was pretty, had a lovely walk and a nice bum, and I made it my business to find out that she was Cathy Holding from Toryglen, near Hampden,” Sir Alex later recalled. They were married in Glasgow in March 1966.
It was a controversial match for a city divided by sectarianism: Cathy was a Catholic, while Alex was Protestant. But he was following the example of his father, who himself had “broken a taboo” by marrying a Catholic woman.
In 1967, Alex moved to Rangers, which was to prove problematic. Rangers and Celtic, the two big football teams in Glasgow, are representative of the city’s religious divide. Most Protestants support Rangers; most Catholics back Celtic.
On the day he signed for the club at Ibrox, one of the directors asked him about his wife’s religion and Alex confirmed she was a Catholic.
When he said they had married in a register office, the director replied: “Well that’s all right then.”
In his autobiography, Alex recalled feeling a sense of “poisonous hostility” towards him from Willie Allison, Rangers’ PR manager, and also calls him a “bigot” for his dislike of Catholics.
When a story appeared in a Scottish newspaper headlined: “Ferguson finished at Ibrox”, he suspected Allison was behind it. He quit Rangers after just two years.
But Alex’s star was to rise and rise. And, as it did, he became more obsessive about football, working long, gruelling hours.
It’s a comically uncanny echo of Sir Alex’s legendary ability to persuade referees to add “Fergie time” to the end of matches when his team are losing.
Perhaps Cathy made her husband take down all his trophies because of a belief that a man can be reminded of his “greatness” too much for his own good.
She is, frankly, rather mystified by her husband’s lifelong obsession: she had no interest in football when she met Alex and that is the way it has stayed.
Sir Alex once explained a typical exchange after returning home from a day at the training ground.
“I go home and say something about the game and all I get is: ‘Ma washing machine is no’ working, Alex.
“I’m always easily outdone. Cathy just says: ‘Never mind the football. What a day I’ve had. Jason’s done this, Darren’s done that and Mark’s done this.’ And me, my head’s bursting and I can hardly talk after shouting at the players all day”.