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Ferguson revels as history beckons

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Phil McNulty | 20:59 UK time, Sunday, 8 May 2011

Old Trafford

Sir Alex Ferguson walked towards the welcoming arms of the Stretford End and into another warm embrace with history when he stopped and bowed flamboyantly twice in front of his followers.

Old Trafford was a wall of sound and celebration after a Manchester United victory of such importance over Chelsea that Ferguson allowed himself the rare grand gesture even before the formalities are complete.

United only need to avoid defeat in one of their last two matches at Blackburn Rovers and at home to Blackpool - assuming Chelsea win both of theirs - to seal a record 19th title and confirm their status as the domestic game's most successful club.

The statistic is heavily weighted with significance. United's inevitable Premier League triumph edges them ahead of Liverpool and brings the day The Kop thought they would never see when they celebrated their last title win on 28 April 1990.

And Ferguson was entitled to let his guard down at his moment of personal elation because when United put the finishing touches to this triumph, it will arguably belong to him even more than his players.

Ferguson insisted United would not do a Devon Loch, the Queen Mother's horse that went into folklore after inexplicably collapsing with the winning post in sight in the 1956 Grand National, and throw away a landmark moment that is within their grasp.

"My dad backed that horse, you know," said Ferguson before dismissing the possibility of football imitating racing at the conclusion of this unpredictable Premier League season.

As a lover of the turf, Ferguson has shown a sure appreciation of the subtleties of how to hit the front and stay there, how to guide his charges through heavy going and deal with the stresses when the final furlong reveals its unique pressures.

saf595.jpgFerguson saluted the Old Trafford faithful after Sunday's key win. Photo: Getty

And as United suddenly felt Chelsea on their shoulders and this game was transformed into a potential title decider, he also got them in the mood to make the fast start that settled arguments even before they had begun at Old Trafford.

United may have been mixed on their travels this season, but the title has been won at Old Trafford, where only two points have been lost, and the punishment inflicted on shell-shocked Chelsea in a devastating opening 20-minute burst was decisive.

Chelsea could have taken control of the title pursuit with only two games left with victory - they were never even allowed to let the notion cross their minds, such was the force of the gust that blew them off course.

Ferguson will go about attempting to address the discrepancy in United's European record compared to his great rivals from Anfield in the Champions League final against Barcelona later this month, but for now another title is the main priority.

An expanding school of thought suggests Ferguson will complete his finest managerial hour if he guides United to the title and the Champions League, although others make a case for his best work coming even before he arrived at Old Trafford when he unseated the "Old Firm" in Scotland at Aberdeen and added a European Cup Winners' Cup win against Real Madrid for good measure.

There is no doubt, however, that his marshalling of a United squad that was functional for large parts of the season and does not rank among the greatest under his control has been a masterclass in management.

Ferguson's abrasive and confrontational style may earn him enemies outside Old Trafford and among opposing supporters, but even as he approaches 70 he has proved once more that he is the best manager in the Premier League in charge of the best team in the Premier League.

And for the man who famously made it his stated intention to "knock Liverpool off their perch", the latest chapter in his Old Trafford story will move him even close to mission accomplished.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez may have gone but the Ferguson spirit lives on in those left behind and it has carried United to the title this season.

He has dragged United with him through the campaign, manouevring and controlling a squad that will need an expensive summer refit even if they claim those two major prizes.

Ferguson must address the replacement of retiring goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and the ageing Paul Scholes as well as adding greater quality to his squad to ensure continued success.

And yet, for all the valid questions raised about United's quality and unfavourable comparisons with teams of the past, here we are again. Ready to add another title, and possibly the Champions League, to the roll of honour.

Ferguson shows no signs of going quietly, revealing something of his relish for life at Old Trafford in his programme notes as he said: "Being manager of Manchester United is one of the great privileges of my life and career and I have had that luxury for nearly 25 years.

"I have to say it doesn't always seem like a luxury as we run the gamut of emotions, winning and losing, the drama and suspense, the low points. These things never change and sometimes we go to the wire."

This title race will not go to the wire after the deserved win against Chelsea, thanks in large part to Ferguson's handiwork in the transfer market and two contrasting talents and characters.

Javier Hernandez is threatening to become one of the Scot's great deals, virtually stolen from Chivas de Guadalajara for what now seems the laughable sum of £6m.

He set United on the way in 36 seconds against Chelsea with a calm finish as he ran on to a pass from the man whose metronomic tone made life so uncomfortable for Carlo Ancelotti's fading Chelsea, Ji-Sung Park, to score the 20th goal of his debut season in England.

Hernandez combines the predatory instincts of an Old Trafford predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with the natural movement of a Gary Lineker. All for a small fee.

Park was once again trusted by Ferguson to deliver in the big game and he did it spectacularly with one of his finest performances. The South Korean ran Frank Lampard and Michael Essien into the ground with his tireless, energetic approach and gave Branislav Ivanovic a harrowing afternoon.

Lampard's scrambled goal gave rise to the prospect of Chelsea salvaging a point, but United were always in control and Howard Webb's final whistle was the signal for the party to start, albeit unofficially.

Sir Bobby Charlton raised his arms to the skies in the directors' box, chief executive David Gill was wreathed in smiles, Edwin van der Sar and captain Vidic gathered their team-mates around them in exultation and Old Trafford celebrated as if the job was done, which it surely is.

And away to their left the man who is on the brink of rewriting domestic football history and claiming his 12th Premier League title was taking his bow as he builds another momument to his managerial acumen.

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Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    Thoroughly deserved victory. Utd really went for it & deserve the league on that display.

    Bring on Barca!!

  • Comment number 2.

    19 league titles, unreal when you think most of them have been under Fergie. What he must not do now is not let himself, the team or the supporters down by choosing a better team v Barca at the end of May. Similar to the one that beat Chelsea today must start to make it possible to beat them. Anderson, Carrick and Park in midfield last time was too slow and unimaginative. Arsenal beat Barca with an a good focus on attack, i think you have to....dont let us down.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm just remembering ...

    all the sneers aimed at the signing of

    o Smalling

    o Hernandez

    and the so-called fans who, over the years, have name-called

    o O'Shea

    o Fletcher

    o Carrick

    o Park

    o Berbatov

    ... this old crone is feeling a tad smug.

  • Comment number 4.

    It was good to see that the result wasn't because of poor decisions. Good game. I guess Madrid and Barcelona should have learnt from there. I say, the game was better that the El Classicos we had this year!

  • Comment number 5.

    Lots of "anyone but United" out there. It's difficult to argue that United didn't deserve to win today. Great first half performance.. I'm starting to believe we have a glimmer of hope against Barca....

    Where's Leeds-Leeds-Leeds now?

  • Comment number 6.

    Today's performance was the definition of holding your nerve. A great performance, the scousers are finally off their perch, and being bounced off the counter by John Cleese.

  • Comment number 7.

    Right let us get one thing straight. Yes Hernandez is having a fantastic first season for United, and 20 goals is very impressive. But these goals are due largely to his movement and being in the right place in the right time. He is a poacher, and a successful one at that.

    He is not, however, comparable to Ole Gunnar Solskjear. That guy was a born finisher. You gave Solskjear one chance, from basically anywhere and he scored. They are not really similar players.

    The only comparable qualities is that they look young, and both were relatively unknown players, bought on the cheap.

    Another thing, I was very surprised at the lack of fight Chelsea put up. Even when they pulled one back, they didn't really seem to ever go gung-ho, which was strange.

  • Comment number 8.

    For the second season on the trot no team has looked outstanding. However, this time there was no chance Chelsea were going to do what they did last season. The fact that Man Utd lost by a point last season having lost Tevez and Ronaldo always filled me with hope for this year. Yes the performances have been workmanlike and away from home not great. Yet the spirit of this team is incredible and I never felt Chelsea despite winning it last season were particularly fearsome opponents.
    I said it previously none of the teams look outstanding - so I always thought we could do it this year. Chelsea were never as great as the fickle press made out at the start of the season even when winning their matches and pulling a lead. Likewise never as bad as the press made out when they had their mid season slump. The fact is Man United have managed to do it and it was a great achievement. The Chelsea, looneypool fans can feel bitter. Looneypool wanted us to come back when we had 18...well we have and we have raised it....knocked you off your perch....Chelski....to compete with Abromovich and the millions is simply unbelievable.....and now of course.....the empty seat team and their millions......well even that lot would have to win a trophy and some point.....but the fact that whilst we have Fergie we will always compete is the main thing....and maybe we can make it a fourth euro. At the end of the day whilst Barca on their day can be excellent, even Bendtner almost stumbled his way to knocking them out so you never know. We will have learnt from two years ago, when we were the favourites, so as the Chelski and looneypool fans hope we do turn out to have the pleasure of losing to Barca....well at least we are there, and you never know.

    As Paul Hardcastle said....NNNNNNN...Nineteen....the record number of English Titles held by Manchester United....read and weep Merseyside!

  • Comment number 9.

    Congratulations to man Utd! Thoroughly deserved victory today. Best team won today.

    and best TEAM won the league. maybe not the best players, but you guys ground out a hell of a lot of results this season.

    Well done

  • Comment number 10.

    Come on BBC , you can mark this incredible achievement (assuming they get the point needed), just "apologise" to the guy (whether you mean it or not, and even if you're not exactly sure what you're apologising for) so we can at least hear the guy speaking to the BBC .... this feud is pathetic ... its been going on for waaaaay too long.... nobody really cares/remembers who said what about whom to whoever anymore ....as a licence payer , please BBC , take the initiative.....

  • Comment number 11.

    Give that man another knighthood! Best manager of all time. Fact!

  • Comment number 12.

    Tactically sound today, chelsea's only width was negated by valencia and park doubling up on the fullbacks. Which made me wonder why they didnt start ramires and chose kalou. Also helped that utd didnt have moaners or hoggers on the pitch in nani who had a good first half of the season but has been desperately poor since the turn of the year. The da silva twins progress has been good to watch this season, also nice to see fabio getting first team, looks like we could have two great attacking wingbacks/wingers for the future.
    I still dont understand why ancelotti doesnt play benayoun or even bring him on, if they want to get the best of torres he is a good place to start. For me the one player who has creativity in chelsea team, also helps that he already has an understanding with torres from his liverpool days. They really need an old fashioned number 10 like cristian erikson or a player like david silva to get the best from him.
    Worried but also excited for the champions league final. Biggest worry is the starting eleven. Carrick was taken to school by barca midfield and even though he had a good couple of games against chelsea, any midfield that passes or puts pressure high up the pitch always gets the better of a midfield with carrick in their as arsenal and man cities midfield demonstrated. Not entirely convinced by Anderson, potentially a perfect player for the midfield against barca but is dogged by inconsistency and not knowing were he plays in the midfield, is think he potentially is an attacking midfielder shown through his early days at Porto rather than a holding midfielder. Just wish he had more confidence on the ball cause he has alot of power and decent pace.
    Reckon we should play berbatov for the next few prem games and rest either hernandez or rooney, we will need all three strikers on form for the barca game as i think hernandez may have a poor game but berbatov with no confidence or game time is no replacement.

  • Comment number 13.

    Certainly this match was won behind the scenes by all the work SAF obviously put in to psyche ManU up for today, they charged out the starting blocks looking for the win, and for all the brilliance of Hernandez, the industry of Ji-Sung Park, and the guile of Giggs, this result was delivered by a safe pair of hands in the agility and reflexes of Van der Sar.

  • Comment number 14.

    A pretty comprehensive win today which I thought personally wouldn't come, but once again, the old Fox has proved me wrong. United took Chelsea by the scruff of the neck and shook them until they screamed. Despite the goal, they were never in this match, and realistically, the game could have ended 4 or 5-1.

    If United take on Barcelona in the same way, it could be a classic. We know already that he'll start again with this line-up at Wembley and if they can get to Barcelona's roaming full backs, they might just put them away too.

    Van Der Saar's replacement continues to worry me as it looks like a last minute dip in the transfer market might secure someone like Given maybe ? Hard to beleive that City would let him cross town though.

    Schole's successor is already in the team - Rooney. He is fast becoming an influential player sitting just behind the front striker. Lampard was awful again and continues to prove what an over-rated player he is, goal or no goal.

  • Comment number 15.

    We'll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United'll never die!

    #19

  • Comment number 16.

    I don't understand those people who think this is an average Manchester United side. I would argue that its simply a more 'different' side to the one in 2009. There seems to be more rigidity and steel about them created as a result of the loss of Ronaldo to RM.

    The away record has been up and down this season, but as a whole the entire league has seen teams struggle to win away. This could well be the first season for over a decade whereby a team wins the title in less than 80pts, which ironically was that United team of 1999 - which people drool over as one of Fergie's greatest ever sides.

    Again, I don't think this a reflection of the weakness of Man Utd in 2011 but rather an increase in ability of the teams below them. If you look at the point difference between first and last you'll see its much much lower than previous seasons.

    Finally I think Valencia coming back from injury has been a huge bonus for them in the latter few months of the season.

  • Comment number 17.

    Park Ji-Sung. What a player.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ashley Cole will be thankful he doesn't have to cope with Antonio Valencia every week. Not much has been said about that but Valencia gave him a torrid time.

  • Comment number 19.

    Congratulations Utd - deserving winners of the PL. I'm happy enough that we managed to push you this far given how we looked to be out of it 2 months ago (expect a better challenge next year!), but the better team definitely won in the end. As for:

    "And for the man who famously made it his stated intention to "knock Liverpool off their perch", the latest chapter in his Old Trafford story will move him even close to mission accomplished."

    How can you honestly say that liverpool haven't been knocked off already? Fact is that happened a long time ago.

  • Comment number 20.

    If Ancelotti gets sacked then Abramovich will just demonstrate how much of an idiot he is. I hope that just because of one unsuccessful season that Ancelotti's not given the chop. Managers need team; Ferguson as far as i can remember took his time to start producing the goods as manager.

    That being sad, Chelsea are rubbish

  • Comment number 21.

    sorry about my awful spelling. it's late!

    *time
    *said

  • Comment number 22.

    Valencia coming back has been like a free transfer, he's been awesome. That was hard to say since I really wasn't sure he was a good buy at first.

  • Comment number 23.

    We hadn't been knocked off our perch because we still have 18 league titles, which at this very moment so do man utd.

    And thats still 14(?) more league titles than you lot!

    And maybe because we are still the most successful english club in europe.

    So if you don't mind...i'll keep using my binoculars to look down at you from this perch that fergie put here for me! thanks very much!

  • Comment number 24.

    Great performance and a stunned Chelsea wre sent home ... what amazes me is there are still guys on here telling Sir Alex what he must do!! 'Dont let us down'? what jokers !!

  • Comment number 25.

    As a United fan thoroughly enjoying this moment, a word of credit for Chelsea: although they were outclassed today, coming back from 15 points down in February was outstanding. The fact they walked out at Old Trafford today with a chance to grab the title is a credit to their squad, and it's why I think Ancelotti should not be forced out.

    As for ourselves, well, I'm extremely proud of what the club has achieved. While there's some truth in this United squad not being Ferguson's best, I'd struggle to name many top-flight European teams who have played better football over the last two months. We can head to Wembley with some confidence!

  • Comment number 26.

    At 70, fergie has done an amazing job. I hope he retires soon....

    so he can still be alive to see Liverpool one day get the record back.

  • Comment number 27.

    Provisional congratulations to Manchester United. As Mark Lawrenson said, you don't win the League by being lucky. They were the best team, and I think it has to be said 2 thirds of the season it was with a Wayne Rooney at 40%. I'm interested in what the vital components are for winners like Ferguson. Is it personal drive, common sense, courage, luck with the players he's had, key players in particular positions, the style the team plays, the instructions, the formations, emphasis on key parts of the play/pitch, mentality, composure, decision-making,etc...?

    You hit on the reason for this year's title, Phil. With 1 home game remaining, they have only dropped 2 points at home. Their League away form is not special, but with Ferguson staying, I don't see that home form changing much next season, which means someone will have to improve their away form if they want to win the title. Chelsea were that team before they inexplicably lost their way this season. Yesterday just reinforced my feeling that Arsenal will still fall short unless they bring in some established quality. My team, City, also picked up a lot of points at home, even if it was fewer than United, but we lost games away that United drew, and nobody has United's comebackability in the last 20 minutes. This is still the difference, though I'm hopeful after this season's derbies, where Ferguson appeared to be wary of City. Like Chelsea with Torres, the Dzeko signing seemed to be a fly in the ointment, but I don't think there will be so many flies come August.

    Another thing that I don't think is being given the respect it deserves is the performances of the also-rans. As the fight at the bottom shows, the results they've managed, and the points they have, I don't think points for the top teams against these teams is as assured as they were a few seasons ago. And with Spurs likely to recharge their batteries, and a resurgent Liverpool, I'm already licking my lips for the new season.

  • Comment number 28.

    All I wanted at the start of the season was the 19th title and a huge amount of credit has to be given to Sir Alex and the players for all but getting there. 52pts from 54 at Old Trafford is an incredible return and was the real key to the team's success. Hernandez has had a fantastic season and I'm sure will only get better, Van der Sar will leave the Premier League as a winner, Giggs will set a new record that may never be broken and Rooney has shown his commitment to the club after the transfer debacle; but for me the man who has been the heartbeat of the side and who will rightly get his hands on the trophy first is Nemanja Vidic. He's been immense this season not only defensively but also with some crucial goals too like today's and at Villa Park.

  • Comment number 29.

    @Liverpaul85: Thats a mighty empty comment, you don't have a perch to sit on, your 6th, we're 1st.

    cy@

  • Comment number 30.

    They'll be talking about Sir Alex hundreds of years from now.

    Incredible manager, one that will never be surpassed in the english game,ever.

    I have to admit, even i started to doubt Uniteds chances when Tevez and Ronaldo left, but arguably now United are EVEN BETTER. Some people critisised fergies signings in the beginning, hernandez,smalling,valencia etc etc but fergie was proved right once again as all of these players are world class. Chris Smalling already looks like he is going to be an england centre half for many many years to come, Valencia must be one of the best right wingers in the world and the little pea, well,he apitimises Manchester United.

    Some will probably disagree with me, but i think this is Uniteds greatest title triumph to date.

  • Comment number 31.

    @29 Nicole

    if you read my comment it is aimed at the Chelsea fan who was talking about us not being on a perch anymore, my reference to ferguson putting us there is exaclty what happened, by saying he wanted to knock us off our perch all those years ago, he effectively gave us a perch to sit on.

    plus....I have already congratulated Man Utd, on both today's performance and winning the league, in previous comments.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 30 Crowforengland

    i agree that this could be Uniteds greatest title to date because this season has been so random! for wolves to beat you when you were bottom of the league, Blackpool to draw when they should have beat you plus many other results (arsenal's shocking recent record). it has just been an incredible season.

    But the most consistant team won, home form always dictates who is gonna be up there at the end of the season. And no other team has more of a fortress than Man Utd now. Apart from maybe liverpool (but only since xmas! and maybe because i'm bias! lol

  • Comment number 33.

    Brilliant victory for United. Its funny how most pundits are claiming they havnt reached the performance heights of other years yet they are going to reclaim the title. Todays performance was dominant and will be remembered for a while to come.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4bKDHTbVww

  • Comment number 34.

    How do you even begin to replace Sir Alex Ferguson ?

    Darren Ferguson? :-)

  • Comment number 35.

    @ rossforsyth

    I think most pundits are saying that they haven't been at their best this season, not today. Everything that i have seen/read has been about how good Man Utd were today.
    And i also think that Man Utd haven't got the talent in their squad of previous seasons but are a better TEAM than before. Also, the reason that no team has run away with the title this season is down to the competitiveness of the PL.

    @ 34 Crow4England

    They can't replace him, i personally, don't like ferguson, but his achievements are there for all to see. Only problem is his moaning and whining about referee's.

    But i reckon whoever comes in next will get a real rough time as they won't live up to the name of ferguson

  • Comment number 36.

    Unbelievable, haven’t felt like this since winning the European Cup in ’99. Valencia is on his way to being a great Man U player. Park’s beginning to play like he does for Korea. Giggs was magnificent.

    Phil, please look up the meaning of “complete the formalities”. You often use it to describe taking a penalty. I’ve taken a few and none of them were a formality. United getting a point at Blackburn or Blackpool also is not a formality. Plus you’re being disrespectful to those teams. I doubt Ferguson or any Man U player will be treating those games as formalities.

  • Comment number 37.

    I wish I'd been able to watch the game... The statistics indicate that Chelsea actually had the majority of possession (54/46) and more shots both on (11/8) and off-target (8/5), but it sounds as though United dominated the match throughout.

    And - now that I think of it - they MUST have... What United needed was to put Chelsea on the back foot immediately, in order to create doubt among the Blues and deny them any momentum... and that's EXACTLY what they did, with a goal only ONE (1) minute in, and the second arriving 22 minutes later.

    They so often seem to do what they must, which is surely the mark of a real champion...

  • Comment number 38.

    I think the only way in which United can replace fergie is to do it in house.

    Someone who has worked alongside Sir Alex for many years, has learnt from him, knows the club inside out.

    For a while i thought Mourinho was the only viable option, but i'm not sure his style of play suits Manchester United. He's a great character and manager though.

    I hate contemplating it, but 1 day Fergies going to retire. He's no household name but i'd be inclined to give phelan a crack at the job.

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't think phelan will get it, he's a number 2. Like steve clark and like McClaren.

    not good managers, but good coaches! Mourinho is too rash to manager United, he doesn't think enough. Just reacts. And he's too negative in his play against big clubs.

    I for 1 cannot wait till fergie steps down!

  • Comment number 40.

    I imagine the man himself will have a huge hand in picking his successor.

    Guus Hiddink is a great manager...urmmmmm perhaps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will emerge as a candidate

  • Comment number 41.

    Sir Alex hasn't rebuilt a team for many years, he lets other teams do the hardwork and then just cherry picks their best players (Rodwell next), thank you very much Everton FC Academy (again).

  • Comment number 42.

    Solskjaer is a good shout. isn't he your reserve team manager or something?? Plus van der sar is gonna stay on and do some coaching aint he??

    Maybe Neville will take his badges and join the coaching staff?? I hope he doesn't! i hate that little.....

  • Comment number 43.

    Noticed the green and gold scarves are still out at Old Trafford. What excactly is the protest slogan now?

    'This is the most succesful period in our history.......... Go home Yanks'

  • Comment number 44.

    Ole went off to Norway to manage his former club molde late 2010.

    Hope he returns one day.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think I speak for every football fan in this country and say, u gotta love fergie!

    Im a villa fan and have spent many years hating him, but the sheer genius, tenacity and longevity of the man, has got to turn even the most ardent of haters into a fan.

    He is truly one of the all time British greats of football, and it would be great for Britain if he could turn over arguably the greatest side in history, in the Champions League Final.

    I for one, will be supporting him, against all my Villa instincts, lol.

  • Comment number 46.

    I wasn't too convinced at the start of the season Utd had the squad to win the League this year but SAF knows best.Congrats Utd, Commiserations Chelsea.Utd may not have had one of their all time great squads but they had the right men for the right job.Hope Giggs just goes on and on and on.

  • Comment number 47.

    even the most ardent liverpool fan must admit that Sir Alex is the greatest of them all. Lets not forget what he did at aberdeen also. Winning a european cup with aberdeen, it would be a miracle if either rangers or celtic did it!

  • Comment number 48.

    With title No19 lbut won and a CL Final around the corner,I think the really pleasing thing about the Reds is the way we are re-building the team with youth. The contribution of the Twins,Smalling and Hernandez augers well for the future of Utd and remember we will have Cleverley and Wellbeck back in the fold after fairly successful loan out's this season.
    The reserves have won their league with a couple of games to spare and the youth team play in the FA final in the next 2wks. Having seen them play numerous times this season they have the ability to replicate the class of '92,with Pogba,Keane,Hunnicliffe I fully expect to be given debut's next season. There is a possibilty that Utd in 2yrs time will field 8-9 players under the age of 25..and that could be frightening for our opponents.
    It's all down to Fergie,the man is virtually inhuman.
    Utd have achieved success these last 6yrs having spent a net £13m in transfers,that is just over £2m per year...the glazers have taken £500m out of the club in that time. They deserve no credit whatsoever...indeed the lack of funds has hindered Utd at times,last season a prime example.
    As we speak,they have again increased S/T prices next year..whilst at the same time reduced prices at Tampa Buccs by 30%.

  • Comment number 49.

    Really enjoyed a football match that did live up to the hype!

    After that performance, surely the same team (Evra coming back as well, not so sure about who's best out of Fabio + Rafael at the moment) could start for United vs Barcelona. Although however good United played, Barcelona are a class above Chelsea so I'm sure Fletcher will come in for that extra bit of steel.

    Valencia was outstanding. Best performance I've seen against A.Cole for a long time, tore him to pieces! Giggs' continues to defy logic with great performances at his age. I can't remember any other player doing the same. Carrick has gone under the radar but I think he was fantastic. Much the same as Hargreaves in his prime or Claude Makelele, they quietly keep the team ticking over in midfield and his partnership with Giggs definitely brings the best out of him.

    Then we have by far the man of the match in Park Ji-Sung. Absolutely brilliant from three-lung! This guy is one of the most underrated players in the game, will go down as one of Ferguson's best buys (hopefully alongside Hernandez) and without doubt a 'cult' hero in years to come. Add on to his skill and work ethic the financial benefits he brings and it's probably one of the best signings football has seen.

    Hopefully get the point at least against Blackburn and then would love to see Blackpool stay up on the last day!

  • Comment number 50.

    Man Utd dominated the match, there's no other way to put it. I don't particularly like them at all really, I'm a Gooner after all, but Man Utd's performance today was both entertaining and well fought. Chelsea never looked like they would get back in it, besides the odd chance. Hernadez looks better every match, excluding last week's, and Park and Giggs don't play like they're both over 29.

  • Comment number 51.

    @48 1878onwards

    "Utd have achieved success these last 6yrs having spent a net £13m in transfers,that is just over £2m per year...the glazers have taken £500m out of the club in that time. They deserve no credit whatsoever...indeed the lack of funds has hindered Utd at times,last season a prime example."

    Even andersred doesn't push out rubbish like this anymore. In the last 5 financial years (plus the first 6 months of the current year) United have spent £230 million on player registrations - compared to £156 million in the 5 years before the buyout. The net spend was £68 million. It's all in the audited accounts - you might want to take a look sometime. And the £500 million taken out is farcical - andersred used to claim something like this but he backed way off after the paydown of the PIKs without using United money. To date the outgoings are closer to £250 million (interest plus financing charges) which, net of the taxes and dividends saved, and considering the revenue increases over the period, puts us about £50-£100 million behind where we might have been without the buyout. That's not exactly a pittance, but it's nothing like the £500 million you were throwing about.

    Performance on the field is the clearest indicator of the condition of the club. Four Premier league title (and 2 second places) in the last 6 years plus 3 Champions league finals compares well to the 3 3rd place finishes in the 4 years before the buyout. I don't really care who owns the club or (within reason) how they are financed. What I care about is that SAF is allowed to run the club his way without interference, that's what brings our success. The current owners seem to meet that test significantly better than the PLC.

  • Comment number 52.

    Well, nobody seems to want to mention that van der Sar saved three pretty good 'goals', with everyone else beaten. He does this so often that it almost becomes not worth noting. Yes, Chelsea looked aimless and ragged compared with United who just looked dangerous whenever they got the ball. But Edwin stopped 3 or 4 of what with most goalies would have been very possible goals, and good ones, too. SAF must be a bit more nervous than he makes out re losing the man. What's the betting that the old fox will sit down with him and persuade him to stay? Is it possible that maybe the two will retire together after a couple more seasons? Nice thought, eh?

  • Comment number 53.

    @ 47 Crow4England

    As an ardent liverpool fan, i have to say that despite all of his accomplishments, fergie will never be the greatest ever manager in our eyes! that honour will only ever be reserved for one of our own. Paisley, Shankly, King Kenny, Roy evans. These guys will always be up there in our eyes. Ok, maybe not Roy evans! haha

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    im a villa fan, I think this articale and the headlines and fergies reaction shows the mediocrity of all but 6 teams in this league. It seems pretty obvious that Man United will win the league but they face two teams facing relegation (and blackburn very much will be if they lose to man u next week) in thier last two game.
    I would prefer Man UTD to win the league over any london club but i have been annoyed all day that this is seen as completely over when its not.

  • Comment number 56.

    Ferguson's impending retirement is sheer fantasy. He will keep on pushing for success but his focus might now switch to Liverpool's 5 European Cup triumphs. He has always felt that his teams have under achieved in Europe, and a win this year and next would be a fitting end to a marvelous career.

    http://www.soccerlimeyinamerica.com/?p=981

  • Comment number 57.

    The difference between Utd and all he rest, is the players bought and selected to play have (with usual attributes of competencies that the rest have) is pluck

  • Comment number 58.

    Wow! what a match. This is the best Ive seen from Man U this season along with their victories over Chelsea in the Champions League. Its not just because I am a Man U fan that I am impressed with this win, but also because of the very technical, attacking and resilient football that they played with. Even the friend with whom I watched yesterday's match, who is an erstwhile Chelsea fan, was of full praise for Man U at the way they attacked and took the game away from Chelsea.
    Full credit should go to Sir Alex who fully deserves this almost won Premier League title. He was a masterclass at the way he maneuvered his limited number of troops this season despite the lack of any big money signings. Having Rooney, Hernandez, Giggs, Ferdinand well rested against Schalke 04 was key to the victory as they were full of spring.
    Next stop Barca. Giggs, Hernandez, Rooney & Ferdinand should be well rested during the next two matches. Man U should persist with the same team at Barca and my well wishes for the success of the team.

  • Comment number 59.

    19
    Shut up you Liverpool numpties!

  • Comment number 60.

    i'm loving that most of the united fans are still saying that the need to catch liverpool in europe now. proves we are the benchmark by which man utd have set themselves! Excellent, thank you lads (and lasses) for cheering up the end of my night shift.

    mange tout!

  • Comment number 61.

    It was a magnificent Manchester United performance yesterday. Chelsea were second best throughout the match. I felt the movement on/off the ball of United was fantastic, while Chelsea were affected by the 1st goal, on the first attack, with only 36 seconds on the clock.

    Being the 19th title, it will be the main talking point of the season but yesterday it was an opportunity for United fans to look at the Luiz incident and think about their constant critique on certain United players.

    Luiz will be an excellent defender for Chelsea but yesterday, apart from being fatally for Chelsea at fault in the first goal, he should never argue with the manager, let alone in front of 75,000 witnesses and millions on TV.

    Carrick's name was not mentioned as, once again, he did all the work someone has to do, running (I assume) some 12.8km-13km on the day. O'Shea and Evans (!!!) were adequate cover for Evra. Park was shining all night long. There were unsung heroes for United yesterday.

    It is a measure of how well a referee contacts himself in a match by how little he's mentioned after it. Even on the Lampard incident, Webb showed that he took into account his assistant's opinion. He handled the match perfectly, defusing situations before erupting. This is why he was chosen to referee the final of the World Cup.

    SAF is the manager who knows his full squad better than any other manager in the Premiership, I believe.

  • Comment number 62.

    Jose Mourinho is light years ahead of ferguson. Unbeaten in a home game for absolutely years, winner with multiple clubs. Ferguson has sat back with a chque book at United for years and basked in dodgy decisions. He is not in the same class.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ 61 Football_uk

    "It is a measure of how well a referee contacts himself in a match by how little he's mentioned after it. Even on the Lampard incident, Webb showed that he took into account his assistant's opinion. He handled the match perfectly, defusing situations before erupting. This is why he was chosen to referee the final of the World Cup."

    Have to agree, thought howard webb did very well yesterday. Do think he should have given 2 penalties and sent off ivanovic, but maybe he didn't want to spoil the occasion.

    Still had an excellent game and showed why he is the best ref in the PL if not the world

  • Comment number 64.

    60) Liverpool were the benchmark over 20 years ago domestically and United have made up extraordinary ground on their nearest rivals and now (with a point against Blackburn or Blackpool, or Chelsea not winning) United are historically the best domestic team in England. More league titles and FA Cups than anyone, in my view that's a bigger achievement than the European Cups. How many games are needed to win the Champions League? Well in this current format (assuming the team don't go through qualifiers) 13 matches (6 in group, 6 knockout ties and a final) is what it takes. A Premier League is won over 38 games. Yes, the quality of a lot of teams may be lower but realistically there are 5 or 6 English teams that can beat anyone in Europe, with the exception of Barcelona and maybe Real Madrid, and probably half the Premier League could challenge a lot of the teams who play in the Champions League. In my opinion it's a bigger achievement to win the league so I don't think United will be looking at Liverpool's fantastic European wins with too much envy now the domestic record is all but gone. Barcelona only have 3 as well and nobody really talks about them having to catch Real Madrid's tally as much as they do United with Liverpool.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ 62, The Truth,

    Thanks for making me chuckle on my first coffee of the day.

    Jose Mourinho (who I don't like) is an excellent manager but a journeyman building his personal CV, in convenient situations (Chelsea with money to spend, Inter Milan without much competition, Real Madrid - no more need to be said).

    Sir Alex Ferguson, prior to becoming a legend for quarter of a century at United, has managed a Scottish team that wasn't Celtic nor Rangers, winning significant trophies with them too - and Scottish teams never had chequebooks. Research it.

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 63, Liverpaul85,

    I think Webb wanted to make crystal clear that this match will not be won by penalties and dives. I don't really want to initiate myself a referee issue as I hate it when it happens. Teams lose matches for reasons and not by 1-2 key decisions as there are 90 minutes there to overcome obstacles.

    On Lampard's incident, we United fans better keep quiet because The Emirates was only last week. And I said too much already.

    I do hope this comment is seen as breaking House Rules as I didn't really want to post it.

  • Comment number 67.

    But its the Man Utd fans saying that they think SAF will want to catch liverpool in europe! Not the Liverpool fans. We know we are still the most successful english club in many aspects of the game.

    Yes we will no longer have the most championship titles, but i would be surprised to see United extend the gap by much over the next few years as they don't seem to have much to spend in the transfer market and they WILL need strengthen.

    Chelsea will definitely spend this summer, as will Man City. Liverpool, I think, will go out and buy a couple of wingers, a CM and possibly a left back. Arsenal probably aren't going to strngthen much and this won't matter as i reckon the squad they have is good enough to win the league, but they don't have the mantality to actually go and do it.

    And i actually believe it is easier to win the champions league as well. Look at Liverpool in 2005. Very poor team in terms of quality. but they worked really hard for 1 another and never gave up. United, for me, are very similar to that team. But with a bit more quality.

    I still think Man utd will lose come may 28th and am not sure they have the resources to go out next year and strengthen enough to keep up with the teams around them

  • Comment number 68.

    @ 66 Football_uk

    It's ok to talk about the referee when the decisions he made haven't affected the result in a negative way. As it turned out it was a brilliant performance that won the match and not Mr Webb.

    I would like to add that there haven't been as many chelski fans commenting on this blog as there was over the last couple of days. Probably in hiding at the moment!

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 67, Liverpaul85,

    Many United fans are letting the selfish kid within come out, as it comes with any other club's fans on occasions that are glorious for their teams. Still it shouldn't be the focal point. The 19th title is a good statistic for United but statistics count for nothing when one thinks of reality. And football's reality is that all top English clubs should be looking at Barcelona and Real Madrid who represent the football benchmark, in my opinion.

    Liverpool still have the 18 titles but what's important for your club is not to get a 19th title and equal the record (which would be nice for Liverpool) but to emerge next season, after a brilliant second half of a season where Anfield became a fortress again and Dalglish made it possible for Liverpool fans to realise that their distance from top four is not that great even in this, current season.

    If United win the Champions League remains to be seen. Myself I am relatively confident for three reasons:
    a) Barcelona have two faces - an unstoppable force at Camp Nou and a good team on away matches.
    b) the final is at Wembley.
    c) In finals, not all better teams win the trophy.

    As for the resources, if there is an opportunity for a United Board complacency, it could easily appear if the team wins the Champions League. United need strengthening.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 69, Liverpaul85,

    I remember an occasion where I suggested that it is an error to not show yellows for early dangerous play, as what a referee does is allowing players to play dangerously on at least two more occasions. The other side of the argument tends to be that this would lead to a team being reduced to 10 men.

    Yesterday, we saw that Ivanovic did stay in the match and behaved better in the second half. I wouldn't really like to see him off, as it would affect Chelsea's performance and they were already weak on the occasion.

    I understand Chelsea fans being absent at the moment. I remember a few occasions that I haven't even watch MOTD myself, when United were disappointing.

  • Comment number 71.

    I disagree that players should be let off. If its a bookable offence, they should be yellow carded. another and they're off. simple. Would soon stop all of this "it's my 1st foul" (even though i kicked him in the head). Referee's should call it as they see it and not decide what is best for the game, at the end of the day they are there to enforce the rules.

    In regards to your reasons for being confident about the CL final:-

    1) Yes the barcelona are an amazing team at home but only a good team, but the 2009 CL final wasn't at the Nou Camp and they still beat you.
    2) The Final is at wembley, but i'm not sure that this helps you. Not sure of the stats but you don't seem to have the best record in the new wembley. (i Could be proved wrong on that one.
    3) your right, it's not always the best team. but individual players do win games and IMO the 2 best players in Europe will be playing that night. I just feel that Messi will be able to have too much influence, especially on that big wembley pitch. (Rooney being the other player, btw)

  • Comment number 72.

    Does anyone know why Luiz was taken off at half time? He seemed to be arguing with ancelloti during the game.

  • Comment number 73.

    @ 71, Liverpaul85,

    I think any English team that might participate in a Champions League final at Wembley would feel relatively at home - no other country, familiar surroundings, short trip, a pitch they played more times than the opponent, etc.

    It's one of those things, regarding United's performances on the new Wembley. Last season we won the Carling Cup. This season, we played the Charity Shield - although a friendly, more or less, we still won on the day. It was always bound to be difficult against City, as United were on a run of too many weeks playing twice in the week, while City were fresh. Still, we lost only by 1-0.

    Whatever happens at Wembley, all I hope for is United to turn up to the occasion this time and try their best. The fact of the matter is we all have to stomach Barcelona until Xavi and Iniesta reach their 31-32-33 years of age and can't be so efficient. Barcelona have many stars, in many positions and Messi is simply the jewel in their team - he didn't perform that well in the World Cup, as he was missing the other culprits (joking) of excellence he plays with at Barcelona.

    Still, a one-off could go to extra time, even penalties.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm totally smiling now.....but my question is why are chelsea fans always so sure they would beat us, the truth is that most of the times they've won us in the past two years have been the result of some poor decisions by referees. So i wasnt surprised we were able surpass them three times this season. Glory United... Lets go for european glory as well!!!

  • Comment number 75.

    @74, Mr_Kevindee,

    Erm....

    1. They are United's nemesis even before Abramovich
    2. They won the title at Old Trafford, last season
    3. United always find it hard against them
    4. They are United's benchmark, now, domestically
    5. The media and pundits helped them towards that direction.

    Still, the good fan recipe is to not try to belittle the opposition after winning a big match.

  • Comment number 76.

    @74

    I agree with Football_UK

    Why shouldn't Chelsea fans be confident of winning a match?

    If you look back over the years I think you will find that Chelsea have beaten United at old trafford more than any other team.

    Also. most of their fans, and their excellent well mannered manager have been very gracious in defeat.

    Also, gloating leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth, and let's not count our chickens yet either!

  • Comment number 77.

    I have to admit we all have to take the hat off to Ancelotti. A big manager is gracious in defeat. Perhaps, SAF, Wenger and the rest can learn out of him.

    It's a reflection on Italian managers we've also seen in Mancini.

    Italian football has nothing to be jealous of from the rest of the world - they've won it all, in many occasions and you can see it in the way they react to defeat. They're at a different level.

  • Comment number 78.

    I congratulate Fergie. Though being a Liverpool supporter, it was inevitable. Rafa waisted our 6 years and could not win the EPL. Instead of concentrating on football and the team he spent time blaming everbody apart from himself when he loses. He choose the team, selected players and bought and sold players at random, he did not know what he was doing. He brought down the club, he recruitment was bad.

    Sometimes I wonder how ManU gets all these players who are young and good at
    reasonably good prices. Unsung players who are good. Fergie is a master class. Good vision and best of managers and good Player and man management. I salute you Fergie, but watch out, it would not be for long. With Danglish Liverpool rise up to the occassion next year and restore Liverpool to its fightful position. Still the best and the most successful English team. 5 Europeam Champ cups. Had it not been for the 5 year UEFA ban on English clubs it was been more because Liverpool was at its peak.

    Congrats again Fergie, the cup is yours. A cup this season, because Barca have won the Championship cup. To paraphrase Mourinho "The UNICEF ad on Barca gives them the chance to win favours from UEFA"

  • Comment number 79.

    Great day. The world seems a better place this morning.. My cup of tea tastes better, the suns seems brighter and my girlfriend looks more attractive! I am really looking foward to work so I can swan around the office with a big smug grin on my face (work in liverpool) and email bitter colleagues (Ian Lucas you know I mean you!). As I said GREAT DAY
    DEST19NY

  • Comment number 80.

    Looking at this United team they are improving, and I think if you look at their performances in the last third of this season, you can see they are a much better team that they get credit for.

    In the short term, all they need to do is find a replacement for Giggs and VDS. They need al alternative creative option in the team, as Giggs must surely only have one more season in him and they need to replace their wonderful keeper.

    If they can do both in the summer, then they will win a 20th title next season.

  • Comment number 81.

    I can only imagine Park didn't get the man of the match award because he still can't deliver a post match interview. He was immense yesterday.

  • Comment number 82.

    @pitroddieloon - Actually a number of the players, who train with him every day! have likened him to Ole in his positioning and finishing, he always hits the bottom corner of the net. I think they are better placed to make a comparison than you don't you think? Yes he scuffed a few chances towards the end but the poor lad was tired out, and by looks of things had something stuck in his eye! Signing of the CENTURY.

  • Comment number 83.

    The richest club in England wins the English Premier League again. Hardly news.

    They will probably win 8 or 9 titles in the next ten years. I wonder how long it will take before people get bored with the same club winning the title year after year.

  • Comment number 84.

    @ 83, Magic Hatter,

    I thought it was the club with the biggest debt.
    Decide what it is.

  • Comment number 85.

    @Magic Hatter

    The richest club in England are sitting in fourth at the moment and lost to Everton at the weekend.

  • Comment number 86.

    A good win, and the league is all but in the bag. My concern is the amount of times United conceded possesion, either through Van Der Saar goal kicks, defensive clearences or attempted hollywood passes. We should be playing the ball out really.

    Against Barca it's going to be a mission just getting the ball so when we get it we can't concede possession cheaply.

  • Comment number 87.

    Have to say I enjoy ready your posts but this one is shows that you didn't really watch what he was doing or listen to his post match interview.

    Ferguson quite cleary bowed to the Stretford end with his arms out to thank the supporters for their contribution to the game. He even said so in the post match SKY SPORTS interview with Geoff Shreeves. Talk about poetic license on your part! Check your facts McNulty!

  • Comment number 88.

    I think the 'rebuild' of United will be a lot more than just Van Der Sar and Scholes...
    Berbatov hasn't signed a new one-year rolling contract yet.
    Owen wants more first team football - which he won't get if Hernandez builds in confidence in English football.
    Hargreaves, poor lad must soon face the inevitable.

    and if Ferguson can capture Young from Villa and (supposedly a doone deal) Rodwell from Everton, who's to say he won't capitalise on Nani's value by getting shot there?

    I'd bring Macheda back, see what that lad can do...

  • Comment number 89.

    great game - Chelsea defence caught cold at the start and then on the back foot for ages. At one point I thought Luiz was going to be subbed afetr 10 minutes as he was arguing with Ancelotti. I also thought Ivanovic was lucky to stay on the pitch although considering we got lucky with Vidic staying on last week not too many complaints there.

    1 point on Saturday and title is ours.

    As for CL Final all teams can be beaten and if we start on May 28th the way we did yesterday and against Schalke then we have an excellent chance of winning

  • Comment number 90.

    Congratulations to Manchester United and especially Alex Ferguson on their successes this year. Although a life-long City fan myself I hope I'm capable of acknowledging a terrific - and deserved - sporting achievement when I see one. . . . which is not to say that I don't look forward to the day when a Manchester United fan is compelled to return the compliment in the not-too-distant future.

  • Comment number 91.

    #90 - I wouldn't necessarily hold yoiur breath on winning a trophy. The amount of Stoke fans I've seen in Manchester and Guildford recently.......

    In all seriousness you have a great chance but Stoke are on a roll and will be very dangerous if underestimated

  • Comment number 92.

    @ThreeLungPark

    You want to get rid of Nani?

    You're a clown, mate.

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 94.

    That early goal knocked a lot of stuffing out of a Chelsea team with an Italian defensive game plan.
    4 3 3 line up should have read 4 5 1. Drogba was on his own for much of the match and even he ended up playing in midfield and defense.
    Add to that a second first half goal from Vidic with MU managing to hold on to that lead until half time. Game effectively over!
    Italian tactics don't work in the Premiership....Man City beware!

  • Comment number 95.

    Leave LiverPaul alone

    He had the good grace to come on and congratulate us Comment 9

  • Comment number 96.

    @Mr Chelsea

    Chin up, fella.

    If Abramovich has the sense to hold on to Carlo, then you'll continue to be right up there next season. I think Drogba will move on ('Arry the fakkin wheeler dealer to swoop?), and Torres, Ramires and Luiz will become the central core of the new Chelsea.

    I think Luiz came off because of his insolence ("Not me! Not me!") more than anything else. Looks a good player - calm on the ball and good coming out of defence. Just needs to polish up on his positioning and reading of the game and he'll be one of the best.

  • Comment number 97.

    @92

    Don't get me wrong, I would sell the lad. I just have this thought about Sir Alex capitalising on a profit. He's a very good judge of player value and if he sees he can get two players with great potential for the value of one...

  • Comment number 98.

    #Wouldn't sell the lad.

    typo

  • Comment number 99.

    PHIL

    Great win and we STILL got denied a stonewall pen for the 3rd time in 4 games!!

    Hope we will be winding down from the high today or tomorrow at Carrington, though. We now need to concentrate on Saturday. As if Fergie won't be yelling that at all and sundry right now.

    Which WOULD be ironic as a place to clinch it, as last year's useless 0-0 draw there clinched it for Chelsea. Here's hoping!

  • Comment number 100.

    @#37....."I wish I'd been able to watch the game... The statistics indicate that Chelsea actually had the majority of possession (54/46) and more shots both on (11/8) and off-target (8/5), but it sounds as though United dominated the match throughout."


    Too much is made of stats, those are sky stats I believe, the BBC stats on MOTD2 were in favour of utd. Just watch a game, ignore stats. They're just there for the Fifa'11 brigade.

 

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