Ferguson: Home comforts fire United to title

BLACKBURN - Manchester United won a record 19th English title because of their fantastic home record this season, manager Sir Alex Ferguson said on Saturday.

A 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers, another example of what Ferguson called "disappointing" away form, secured the trophy with a match to spare and it was a low-key way to clinch it for what many pundits have said is not a vintage United side.

Ryan Giggs, like Ferguson involved in each of United's 12 Premier League titles, alluded to the jibes.

"Yeah, obviously we're rubbish - we've won the Premier League and we're in the Champions League final," he said, but the numbers do not lie.

United picked up just 25 points from a possible 57 on their travels, while being propped up by a near flawless record at Old Trafford where they have dropped just two points all season.

"Our away form has not been great... yet our home form has been absolutely fantastic - that's won us the title," Ferguson told a news conference.

While Ferguson was delighted to have overtaken arch-rivals Liverpool as the club with the most English league titles and still has a Champions League final against Barcelona to look forward to, he admitted it had not been his best season.

"Oh no, let's not get carried away now," he replied when asked if it matched the feat of winning the league, FA Cup and European Cup in 1999. "The treble season was something special, I don't think anyone will ever do it again."

TRAVEL SICKNESS

United's travel sickness continued on Saturday when the visiting fans' noisy party was silenced by a Brett Emerton goal in the 20th minute as the solid back four who have kept Old Trafford watertight leaked away from home once again.

But as they did at Blackpool, where they trailed 2-0 at halftime and won 3-2, and at West Ham United, where they turned around a two-goal deficit to win 4-2, Ferguson's side raised their game to get what they needed.

In a season in which the United boss has courted controversy with statements about refereeing, it was fitting that the equaliser which secured the title involved the officials.

When Javier Hernandez was tripped by goalkeeper Paul Robinson, referee Phil Dowd had rushed over to his linesman to check whether it was a penalty.

Half the United team followed him, visibly agitated as if they sensed the decision might not go their way, but after a brief discussion Dowd pointed to the spot and Wayne Rooney stepped up to take the kick.

That it was Rooney who scored the goal that won the title also had a certain symmetry about it as the player who started the season struggling for form and battling off-field issues capped a return to form.

"Terrifying," he said of waiting to take the penalty. "It took a long time. I just had to compose myself. After the year I've had, you know the ups and downs."

United return to their fortress next Sunday, where they will aim to end the season by maintaining their phenomenal home record against relegation-threatened Blackpool.

They will rest players with the European Cup final in mind, but will not give anything to the Seasiders on the day when they will be presented with the Premier League trophy.