SIR Alex Ferguson has been “influential” in setting up the Liam Miller tribute match that will be played in the former Celtic and Manchester United midfielder’s native Cork this afternoon despite suffering a brain haemorrhage back in May, it has been revealed.

Sir Alex made his long-awaited return to Old Trafford on Saturday less than five months after undergoing emergency surgery and received a warm reception from United supporters before their Premier League fixture with Wolves.

But Michael O’Flynn, the chairman of the benefit game’s organising committee, has told how the Scot has, along with other high-profile figures from the football world, been one of the driving forces behind the event in recent weeks.

A Celtic/Republic of Ireland greats side, which will feature Damien Duff, John Hartson, Robbie Keane, Paul Lambert and Stiliyan Petrov, will take on a Manchester United legends team, that will comprise Andy Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, in front of a sell-out 45,000 crowd at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

The game will raise money for the family of Miller, the ex-Ireland internationalist who passed away from pancreatic cancer aged 36 in February, as well as several nominated charities.

Mr O’Flynn, a lifelong friend of the Miller family and local property developer, has recalled how Sir Alex has been heavily involved in the benefit match despite the fact he was recovering from his health scare.

“I met Sir Alex Ferguson at Cheltenham in March and told him we were thinking of doing something,” he said. “He was immediately on board. He called Liam a lovely lad and said he would love to help.

“He was instrumental in this happening. He helped get it started and did a lot of good work before he got ill. But he has been in contact again with me recently. I have spoken to him in the run-up to the event. He has given me a note for the programme.

“He was very hopeful a month ago that he might make it, but, unfortunately, his doctor hasn’t agreed to the travel so he won’t attend. But he has been very interested and connected. He has been hugely influential in the whole thing taking place.

“I have had several contacts with him in the last few weeks. I have very impressed with his sincerity in following through on it. He has supported it in every way – including making his own contribution. That is how genuine he has been about helping the family and the charities which have been nominated.”

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the organisation which runs gaelic football and hurling in Ireland, prohibits any other sport being played in its grounds.

Yet the GAA, who allowed international rugby union and football matches to be played at Croke Park in Dublin when Lansdowne Road was being redeveloped in 2007, bowed to considerable public pressure and agreed to the match going ahead at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

“There was an outcry about it,” said Mr O’Flynn. “Politicians responded to the public and the GAA were forced into a decision.

“But everybody I have met in GAA wanted this to happen in a GAA stadium because Liam was a fantastic hurler and gaelic footballer as well.

“It is incredible that it has come to this. It is great consolation for the family. They are humbled by the reaction and are grateful.

“This is a unique event. Beyond the fact a soccer match is being held in a GAA stadium, something that will never happen again, it is extraordinary. It says everything about Liam Miller.”