It also allowed me to observe at close quarters one of the most vilecreatures ever to inhabitate Planet Earth. A big-nosed, wiry-haired,squinty-eyed, spitting, snarling, horrible little monster that makeseveryone who encounters it recoil in horror.
Yes, I'm talking, of course, about the Severely Spotted Gary Neville.
Even by his standards, Britain's Most Unpopular Footballer was onspectacularly ghastly form spewing his saliva at Manchester City players andgiving Carlos Tevez the finger.
His behaviour might have been more effective if he'd actually beenplaying at the time. But Neville's no longer any use on the field, soAlex Ferguson just lets him trot up and down the touchline doing hisuntrained pitbull impression.
Cocky horror show: United's irritant in chief, Gary Neville
It's the Gaffer's reward to the man who is supposedly the PremierLeague's answer to Paolo Maldini, a player loyal to one great club fornearly two decades. But rather like watching those punch-drunk oldprize-fighters being paraded around ringside at big boxing bouts, Ijust found the whole spectacle rather embarrassing.
I don't knock Neville for his unquestionable loyalty and dedicationto the United cause. He's been a magnificent player for them. But it'sover. He knows it, Sir Alex knows it, the fans know it, and theopposition sides know it.
Neville's become the guy who doesn't know when the party's over, theaesthetically challenged dork at the school disco who marches up toevery girl he can find at midnight, as the music stops and the lightscome on, demanding with an angry face: 'Fancy a dance?'
And who, when they all shudder and say 'no', explodes with rage, gobs in their face, and screams:
'I'm too ****ing good for you lot anyway!'
More from Piers Morgan On Sport. Piers Morgan: Thierry Henry's the Arsenal old boy Arsene Wenger really needs16/01/10 Piers Morgan: Here's to Alexander the Great - not Coyle the betrayer09/01/10 Best of British: Morgan on Sport award for the Football Personality of the Year26/12/09 PIERS MORGAN: Ashton's a good guy, he doesn't deserve such a cruel fate12/12/09 Piers Morgan: My team of the decade. and there's no place for you, Keano05/12/09 PIERS MORGAN: Chelsea star Nicolas 'Le Sulk' Anelka shows my Dad was right all along28/11/09 Piers Morgan: If we're going to string up footballers, let's start with real villains, like Roy Keane21/11/09 PIERS MORGAN: Professionalism? No, Smudger, it's called cheating14/11/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE This kind of behaviour wouldn't matter so much if Neville wasn't still Manchester United's club captain, a position that holds enormous responsibility not just to his own team, but tothe millions of young fans around the world who see him as a rolemodel.
All this arrogant, abusive reptile has taught them this year is how to insult, curse, taunt, gloat and crack under pressure.
As a player, Gary Neville has lost it. His performances, when he hasplayed this season, have been dreadful. As a spectator, he's been evenworse.
It's obvious that Neville himself is determined to linger on as longas possible, flying the red flag of defiance he's flown for so long.But he's become a walking, talking, spitting, gesticulating embodimentof all that's wrong at Manchester United right now. And someone has toput the old warrior out of his misery. Call that being in control,Fergie?
Ironically, Neville's antics on Tuesday night came just as his manager decided to inform the world how powerful he is.
'Control is very, very important,' declared Sir Alex, 'because if I lost control of all these multimillionaires in my dressing room, I'm dead. So if anyone steps out of my control, they're dead.'
Tough words, big guy. Real Don Corleone stuff. And, I'm afraid, complete nonsense. Because the truth is that Sir Alex lost control of his multimillionaires a long time ago.
On the wane: Fergie's grip on his players is not as obdurate as it once was
David Beckham got a boot chucked in his face, so waltzed off in a huff to Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo listened to all his boss's veiled threats and desperate pleadings, and did the same. Carlos Tevez was stuck on the bench, so picked up all his toys and ran off to the neighbours.
And my money's on Wayne Rooney being lured to Spain pretty soon, too. It's where the big money, big stars, and best football now is.
You don't have any control over any of them, Fergie old son. They control you.
Coyle's a tarado in any languageCop that: Coyle, victim of another Morgan mauling
'Even Piers Morgan was having a go at me,' whined Owen Coyle last week, after his treacherous defection from Burnley to Bolton.
'What does he know about football?'
Ooooh, get him!
He's not the first person to say that about me, and he won't be the last. It's what self-appointed 'football people' pompously say about anyone who doesn't actually operate in the professional game as a player or official.
And, admittedly, I haven't done either.
But I worked out this week that I've watched Arsenal play more than 2,000 times in the last 40 years in 23 countries. And seen at least another 500 games involving other teams. So I know a little bit about football.
Certainly enough to know that a manager who selfishly, heartlessly ditches his club mid-season for a local rival claiming absurdly that he wanted to go to a 'bigger club' when, in fact, he just wanted to go to a bigger pay cheque is what Carlos Tevez would call a 'tarado'.
Cheerio: Piers looks flushed prior to his sacking
Great to see proper business people running West Ham again. The two Davids, Sullivan and Gold, know their football and their money.
And Karren Brady is as smart and funny as she's sexy. She's already extended an invitation for me to join her in the Upton Park boardroom next time Arsenal play there.
The last time I was Karren's guest at a football match was the Arsenal-Birminghamgame in May 2004.
That morning's Daily Mirror had a front page splash exposing rogue British troops for abusing Iraqi civilians.
'You sure they're genuine?' she asked me, over the half-time cream cakes.
'Of course, they're genuine!' I snorted.
I was fired two weeks later.
I love all the indignant rage being hurled at England cricket captain Andrew Strauss for skipping the Bangladesh tour.
Bangladesh are the worst national cricket team ever. They've won only three Test matches of the 61 they have played one against the woeful Zimbabwe, and the other two against a West Indies reserve team. They've lost 52 of these games, 33 of them by an innings.
Well-earned rest: Strauss
And most sensible people think it's long overdue that their Test status was removed. So it would only offend me, frankly, if Strauss said he WANTED to waste his time playing against them.
There might also be method to his madness.
I had a deputy editor at the Mirror who was so universally loathed, and utterly hopeless, that every time I went on holiday the staff would bombard me with emails and calls begging me to come back.
I'm not saying Alastair Cook is in the same category. But it's never a bad thing for a leader to remind his troops what they're missing by leaving someone less able in charge.
Strauss has done a magnificent job as captain, far better than I ever thought he could do.
He is calm, authoritative, has the respect of his players and makes tough decisions when they matter. Under him, we have won back the Ashes and drawn away against a superb South African side.
He's earned his break. And if he goes to Australia next winter and beats them again in their own backyard, then trust me - nobody's going to be squealing about Bangladesh.
Have your sayYou can't tell me that someone like Sol Campbell, who was voted the 15th greatestGunner of all time (by Arsenal fans) can't call the Emirates (or Highbury for that matter) his home. A home is not just where you made your name but largely where you always feel loved and welcome by the fans.
Piers says: 'A home is not supposed to be the place that your first, real family wants totorch to the ground. Or am I missing something here?'
As an old farmer once said: 'The carthorse is invaluable, but when the engine's goneit's time for the knackers yard.' I hope Capello puts Gerrard out to grass with Owen.
Piers says: 'There's an old Russian proverb that says, 'It's not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats''. Gerrard's hungry for trophies, and fed up with not being fed.'
You and Kevin Pietersen have something in common. You're both egomaniacs withreasonable levels of talent, but the wiring between your brains and your backsides is faulty.
Piers says: 'Thanks, Dick. I do love a man whose emails prove he has been perfectlynamed.'
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