Simple journalist that I am I've never quite understood why the Qataris were prepared to pay a 36% premium to the share price for Sainsbury's, and a 32 times multiple on the supermarket's improving but still modest profits of £380m after tax.

But as every retailer knows the value of money is relative, where the price of a bottle of water can be 20p in an Aldi in Manchester town centre, 80p in a corner shop, and £2 at Manchester United. For a long time it looked as though the Qataris were prepared to pay Premiership prices for Sainsbury's. And as everyone said, they could afford it. But this was not a £50,000 diamond-encrusted watch. This was not a £650,000 Bugatti Veyron to take on a thrill-seeking drive through London traffic (average speed 11mph). This was a £12bn investment, by high net-worth individuals, the Qatari royal family merely providing colourful provenance to a purely money-making deal.

This week I remortgaged my house. The best deal I could get was a two-year tracker, and still my repayments will be 30% higher. This is a world away from high finance, I know, but the increasing cost of capital in today's credit crunch markets will hurt any borrower's plans.

CEO Justin King will be rallying the troops this week as only he can. But store managers will miss the plasma TVs they almost owned, while directors will already have arranged the furniture - mentally, of course ­- in their new Caribbean holiday homes.

Thank goodness for the distraction of Christmas trading. And a favourable-looking Competition Commission inquiry is a further boost to Sainsbury's recovery. But the coming months will be challenging. And as we explain on p30, even the recovery is far from a formality in today's competitive landscape.