Ferguson bows out on a high, of sorts

Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out of management on Sunday with a smile, a wave and a bucketful of goals in his 1,500th Manchester United game but without the victory he had so wanted.

The 71-year-old Scot entered retirement having watched his Premier League champions draw 5-5 at West Bromwich Albion on the final day of the season having led 5-2 with 11 minutes to go.

Before the game he had spoken of his desire to go out on a high after more than 26 years in the job but he was not really referring to the type of score.

"The gaffer is certainly going to remember his last match in charge! He is going to remember this game. It's probably the first time United have been 5-2 ahead and not won," striker Javier Hernandez told the BBC.

United had raced to a three-goal lead in the first half hour thanks to Shinji Kagawa, a Jonas Olsson own goal and Alexander Buttner but West Brom pulled one back through James Morrison just before the break.

The hosts got another five minutes into the second half courtesy of Romelu Lukaku before United re-established their three-goal lead with goals from Robin van Persie and Hernandez.

But West Brom were not done and struck three times in quick succession towards the end of the game, with Lukaku completing his hat-trick and Youssouf Mulumbu also scoring, to pull off the unlikely scoreline.

"5-5... what a mad result! Let's be honest the boss was never going out with a boring 0-0!!" United defender Rio Ferdinand wrote on Twitter.

Ferguson, who was greeted by a guard of honour from both teams before kick-off, chose not to conduct any post-match interviews but before leaving the pitch raised his arms to fans and took a bow.

"The gaffer has put the club on the top and we're going to miss him," Hernandez said on a day when United were also bidding farewell to midfielder Paul Scholes who was hanging up his boots.

"I can't remember playing in a match with 10 goals. We're a little bit frustrated because we wanted to win it for the gaffer and Scholesy."

MOVE ON

United were not the only club saying their goodbyes as Ferguson's successor David Moyes took charge of his final game at Everton.

Like Ferguson, he did not end his time on a winning note, losing 2-1 at Chelsea, and like Ferguson he will be sorely missed by a club he has been a long servant of.

"It's emotional because it's the last time I walk away from the players but part of the job is you move on," Moyes said.

"It's rare to stay in a job for 11 years so I'm thankful for getting that opportunity and hopeful they're in a strong position to push on. It's really not sunk in."

His opposite number in Sunday's game, Rafa Benitez, was also at the helm of his club for the final time although he will not be missed quite so much by fans despite leading them to a third-place finish and victory in the Europa League.

An unpopular figure since replacing Roberto Di Matteo in November, the Spaniard has enjoyed a slight mellowing in fans' attitudes of late and there were even some banners declaring "Thanks Rafa" and "We forgive you".

Banners were the order of the day at the Etihad Stadium too where fans held up messages of thanks to Roberto Mancini, who was sacked as manager on Monday.

"It's been an emotional week with the events at the club," caretaker manager Brian Kidd said after City's 3-2 defeat by Norwich City. "I understand the cheers for the boss - he would have been disappointed if there wasn't for what he did here."

Emotions also ran high at Anfield, where defender Jamie Carragher was making his final appearance before retirement.

"I'm not the type to get too emotional but it is emotional," Carragher, who received a deafening ovation when substituted late on in their 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.

"I've got my friends and family in the stands but I just wanted to concentrate on the game. We got the win that we wanted and I can go and enjoy myself now."

His former Liverpool team-mate Michael Owen also played the last match of his career in Stoke City's 1-1 draw with Southampton.


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