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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Football

Alex Ferguson to bid farewell today
AFP
London, May 19, 2013
First Published: 07:13 IST(19/5/2013)
Last Updated: 07:34 IST(19/5/2013)

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson will bid an emotional farewell to his trophy-laden career on Sunday as the curtain falls on another roller coaster English Premier League season.

With the title already wrapped up by United, and with Wigan, Reading and QPR confimed in the  relegation places, attention switches to Ferguson's last stand as well as a host of other farewell performances.

Ferguson will take charge of United for the 1,500th and final time at West Brom, where veteran midfielder Paul Scholes could also make his last appearance for the champions after simultaneously announcing his retirement last week.

An 87th-minute goal from Rio Ferdinand against Swansea City last weekend gave Ferguson victory in his final home game on an emotional afternoon at Old Trafford, and he is desperate to bow out with another win at The Hawthorns.

"Now the match on Sunday, 1,500 games, it has been quite incredible," said the 71-year-old Scot.

"It could not be more difficult. West Brom have done terrific this season and they (United's players) will want to win this one more than last week's, even, so hopefully we can do that."

Ferguson's successor-in-waiting, David Moyes, will end his 11-year association with Everton at Chelsea, who on Wednesday claimed a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Benfica in the final of the Europa League.

Moyes, who will take over from Ferguson on a six-year contract on July 1, said he was grateful to the players who have played under him.

"The memories I've got from Everton are going to live with me for a long time," he said. "The character the players here have had is great. All the players in my time here have been great."

United veteran Ryan Giggs believes Moyes will be warmly welcomed by Old Trafford.

"What David Moyes is coming into is a good atmosphere, a really good bunch of lads, very good players and a really strong squad, so it is a strong position to be in. But the downside is that you have to follow the most successful manager that has ever lived," said Giggs.

United old boy, Michael Owen, will hope to feature in Stoke City's game at Southampton after announcing that he, too, will retire at the end of the season.

Liverpool's fans, meanwhile, are preparing to say goodbye to long-serving defender Jamie Carragher, who is set to make his 737th and final appearance at home to QPR before taking up a position as a television pundit next season.

Asked how he would like to be remembered, Carragher said: "A decent lad who had a go. Everyone has an opinion as to whether you are a good or a bad player - as long as everyone thought I put a shift in, home or away.

"I've not been a flash type of fella. As a player you improve with experience but I've been the same sort of player (throughout his career)."

Carragher will captain Liverpool and the club have also announced that he will be honoured with a guard of honour from both teams before the game.

The only source of real suspense on the final day will be the tussle for Champions League qualification.

Tottenham Hotspur hope to pip Arsenal to the fourth and final qualifying place, but to do that they must win at home to Sunderland and hope their north London rivals drop points at Newcastle United.

There is also a possibility that Chelsea and Arsenal will end the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored, which would necessitate a play-off to decide which club finishes third and qualifies automatically for the Champions League.

For that to happen, Chelsea would need to draw 0-0 at home to Everton and Arsenal would need to win 2-1 at St James' Park, but Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez says he does not envisage such a scenario.

"It's too early to talk about that," he said.

"If we have to do it, the rules are the rules. I don't think it's ideal, but in trying to avoid this situation, we will score goals and we will try to win."

Wigan Athletic's loss at Arsenal on Tuesday consigned them to relegation alongside Reading and QPR, but the clubs above the bottom three still have a financial incentive to finish the season as high up the table as possible due to the incremental allocation of end-of-season prize money.

Fixtures

Sunday (1500GMT):

Chelsea v Everton, Liverpool v Queens Park Rangers, Manchester City v Norwich City, Newcastle United v Arsenal, Southampton v Stoke City, Swansea City v Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United, West Ham United v Reading, Wigan Athletic v Aston Villa


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