Manchester - Rio Ferdinand's first league goal in five-and-a-half years ensured Alex
Ferguson was given a winning send-off, thanks to a 2-1 English Premier League
victory over Swansea at Old Trafford, in the veteran manager's final home game
in charge of the club.
Swansea's Michu had equalised an opening goal from United forward Javier
Hernandez and a day of celebration seemed destined to end in minor
disappointment until Ferdinand, who signed for Ferguson in July 2002, appeared
on the end of Robin van Persie's 87th minute corner and shot home from six
In an emotional post-match speech, Ferguson, who will be succeeded by
Everton manager David Moyes, praised all at the club during his 26 years in
"I had bad times here and the club stood by me, the players and fans
did too. Your job now is to stand by our new manager," said Ferguson.
As a typically torrential Manchester afternoon dampened proceedings - if not
the mood - the fixture that marked Ferguson's final home game was always to be
largely irrelevant, with the manager having won his 13th English league title
two weeks earlier.
But the significance of the occasion made for an electric atmosphere at Old
Trafford as the teams came out and created a guard of honour for the retiring
Ferguson made a low-key entrance in the circumstances, taking his place on
the United bench for the 1 499th time as manager, as a club employee held up
the electronic substitutes' board to display the figures "26" and
"38" - the number of years Ferguson has been in charge and the number
of major trophies he has won, respectively.
The 75 000-plus crowd had also been issued with flags - red for United,
white for the few thousand visiting supporters - while one side of the stadium
displayed a mosaic which spelt out "Champions" during the pre-match
There was such an air of celebration and reminiscence around Old Trafford
that one burning issue hardly registered - the fact that England striker Wayne
Rooney was not even named among the substitutes by Ferguson.
News emerged this week that, for the second time in two years, Rooney had
recently requested a transfer, one initially rejected by Ferguson who clearly
made his feelings known in his penultimate ever United team selection.
Instead, all eyes on the pitch were cast towards Paul Scholes, the
38-year-old United midfielder, who had similarly announced he is to retire at
season's end and was handed a start by Ferguson.
Injuries have ravaged Scholes' final season in the game, with the former
England international not having appeared since late January, and there was an
obvious willing among team mates and supporters alike for the popular
midfielder to mark his farewell with a goal.
The closest he came was in the 25th minute when Hernandez slipped through a
neat pass but Scholes failed to make decent contact with an 18-yard shot that
was easily stopped by Gerhard Tremmel.
Indeed, Hernandez was influential in most of United's best attacking moments
before finally giving his team a 39th minute lead when Ashley Williams
deflected a Van Persie free-kick into his path. The Mexican forward slid in
with a well-timed shot that beat the dive of Tremmel.
Hernandez had struck the underside of the bar after just four minutes and
volleyed just over later in the half while Van Persie's crisp 18-yard strike forced
Tremmel into conceding a corner just before the break.
But events on the field were of secondary importance to United fans, who
also found time to poke fun at local rivals Manchester City and their manager
Roberto Mancini, the subject of increasingly frenzied speculation that he is to
be sacked by the club.
It took just four minutes of the second half for Swansea to equalise, with
their first meaningful attack, as Michu scored from six yards with a
spectacular, twisting volley from Nathan Dyer's cross; a goal followed, moments
later, by Wayne Routledge almost putting the visitors in front as he exchanged
passes with Michu and rolled a shot just wide of the far post.
Pablo Hernandez's near-post shot was well saved by David de Gea and Chico
Flores appealed for handball after his shot struck Nemanja Vidic before Scholes
took his leave, replaced by Anderson, after 65 minutes.
Danny Welbeck almost played in Hernandez and Anderson shot just wide from
the edge of the area until, fittingly, a player who has been alongside Ferguson
for a decade settled the contest.