Ferguson hails players after dramatic season

MANCHESTER - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hailed his most dramatic season on Sunday as his players lifted the Premier League trophy to the deafening sound of fireworks and cheers at Old Trafford.

United secured a record 19th league title last weekend with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers but they had to wait until they had beaten Blackpool 4-2 on home soil to get their hands on the silverware.

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"What a season," Ferguson exclaimed to a packed stadium from the pitch. "Thinking back over the years, I don't think there has been a more dramatic season than this one and you have to credit the spirit."

The party started early with every fan holding up a strategically placed piece of coloured paper to spell out "Champ19ns" across the seats before the team overcame a spirited Blackpool to stay unbeaten at home all season.

United dropped just two points at their fortress but have wobbled away from home, conceding late goals early in the season and riding their luck several times.

Trailing 2-1 to Blackpool on Sunday, it looked like their home record was under threat but an own goal and clinical finishes from Anderson and substitute Michael Owen kept it in tact and left United nine points clear at the top of the league

Blackpool were relegated and as their dejected players left the stadium, the contrast could not have been greater as Old Trafford erupted with the added bonus of a Champions League final against Barcelona to look forward to next week.

"The players were absolutely brilliant, well done to them," said Ferguson. "The excitement and all these last-minute goals, I don't know how you survive.

"This is just the nature of our club - we do it that way. I always look back and think of all those last-minute goals that epitomise the spirit of Manchester United."


United's ability to come back after falling behind has been key to their season, having overturned a 2-0 deficit at Blackpool to win 3-2 and fighting from two goals down to beat West Ham United 4-2.

As the players filed up one by one to received their winners' medals before captain Nemanja Vidic lifted the trophy, there was one player savouring the moment even more than most.

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who had been made skipper for the day, soaked up his last match at Old Trafford before his retirement.

"I want to thank the manager, he bought me six years ago, maybe a couple of years too late," he said.

"I wish I'd joined the club earlier. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The fans and the other players have been magnificent. "I'll always keep a warm place in my heart for Manchester United - the world's biggest club."

Among those he will be leaving behind were midfielder Ryan Giggs, who picked up a 12th league winners' medal, and striker Wayne Rooney whose return to form was instrumental in United's march to the title.

"This is what you play football to do: to win trophies