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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Football

Man United look forward after Ferguson says goodbye
AFP
West Bromwich, United Kingdom, May 20, 2013
First Published: 09:15 IST(20/5/2013)
Last Updated: 09:18 IST(20/5/2013)

Robin van Persie said Manchester United were already looking to the future after Alex Ferguson closed the book on his 26-and-a-half-year managerial tenure with an incredible 5-5 draw at West Bromwich Albion.

The madcap game brought Ferguson's long, record-breaking reign to a breathless climax and meant United finished the season 11 points above Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.

United will begin life under new manager David Moyes on July 1 and despite sadness at Ferguson's departure, Van Persie said he and his fellow players were already plotting their assault on next season's silverware.

"That's our standard for this team. This is a great team and, hopefully, we can go for even more trophies. I'm sure we can," the Dutch striker told United's in-house television channel, MUTV.

"Of course, we get a new manager next year and everybody is looking forward to that. It's a new challenge for everyone. We'll have a nice break now and then we go again."

With veteran midfielder Paul Scholes joining Ferguson in retirement, United were looking to sign off with victory at The Hawthorns on Sunday, but they returned to Manchester with only a point despite having led 3-0 and 5-2.

Javier Hernandez scored United's fifth goal in the 63rd minute, only for the hosts to hit back with three goals in the final nine minutes to salvage an improbable draw.

Half-time substitute Romelu Lukaku made it 5-3 in the 81st minute, with Youssouf Mulumbu scoring seconds later before on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku completed a memorable hat-trick by bundling home with four minutes remaining.

Van Persie was disappointed not to have given Ferguson one last victory in his 1,500th game, but he said the reception the 71-year-old Scot received during the match made for a fitting send-off.

"I was waiting for some Fergie time, you know, at the end," said Van Persie, in a tongue-in-cheek reference to United's reputation for scoring injury-time goals.

"But it didn't happen. It was good fun for everyone, to score 10 goals, so I think the fans are pleased.

"Sir Alex deserved it (the reception), to be fair, after 26 and a half years at United and, before that, at Aberdeen. He's unbelievable and I think what the West Brom fans did was a nice touch."

Michael Carrick, United's captain for the day, admitted that knowledge of Ferguson's imminent retirement had cast a shadow over the day.

"It's a bit funny in the dressing room because of the situation," he told BBC Sport.

"We've thanked the manager for everything he's done and he's thanked us. We're ready to move on and there are new challenges for all of us.

"We're looking forward to it. The manager wanted to win, but the job for the season is done. I'm sure he can retire very satisfied."

Ferguson strode onto the pitch to wave goodbye to United's fans at the final whistle, but he declined to speak to media after the game.

Approached by a television crew outside the ground, he would only say that it had been a "very emotional" day, but West Brom manager Steve Clarke said his fellow Scot had not been too disheartened by the final result.

"It was an incredible game. It must have been fantastic to watch. It's not a game you can analyse -- it's just one you sit back and enjoy," said Clarke.

"I think he (Ferguson) is just ready for retirement. He said it was a great game and complimented us on the way we played.

"It's a great finale for Six Alex. Anyone who was in the stadium will remember that game for years to come. I think it's a good tribute."

Clarke was also relieved that the post-match bottle of wine he shared with his opposite number met Ferguson's approval, saying: "He knew what it was and said it was a good year."


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