There’s a payback time in marriage called retirement

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Beware, high-flying men and women, who you walk down the aisle.

There is a payback time in every marriage and it’s called retirement.

Sir Alex Ferguson, arch strategist, was obviously only too aware of this fact when he stepped down from Manchester United.

He prepared the ground (or should I say minefield) by paying his wife an extravagant compliment.

‘Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement.’

After decades of playing second fiddle to MUFC, one pictures Lady Cathy rubbing her bejewelled hands together, muttering: ‘From now on, Fergie, you’re mine.’

She has already reportedly cleared their £2m mock Tudor home of his trophies and Sir Alex recounts that when he comes home with work chat, she responds with: ‘Yes. Yes. Ma washing machine is no’ working, Alex.’

If her tumble dryer breaks down too, maybe it will be Fergie giving his legendary ‘hairdryer treatment’ to her clothes.

For some couples, however, the habits of several decades become entrenched. My friend’s mother still tiptoes around her retired surgeon husband, delivering cheese and crackers to his study, topping up his whisky and generally doing everything she can to let him focus on his life and death game of Angry Birds.

For my own parents, coming home to a good tongue-lashing from mum once served dad as a pleasantly grounding counterpoint to a day being deferred to.

Post-retirement, mum’s useful insights into his less strong points became the 24/7 landscape of his life.

He found himself increasingly summoned outside by lawns to be mowed, hedges to be trimmed and leaves to be blown, mostly with the aid of ear defenders.

‘I thought you hated gardening, dad’, I said.

‘I do’ he replied.

But Fergie is not the first high-hitter to put success down to a spouse. One remembers the tribute Margaret Thatcher paid to Dennis: ‘What a man, what a husband, what a friend.’