Manchester United 2-1 Swansea

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Old Trafford
Ferguson given guard of honour

Sir Alex Ferguson's final game as Manchester United manager at Old Trafford ended as so many have done before - with victory secured by a late goal.

Rio Ferdinand's first goal for five years gave Ferguson three points against Swansea City in his 723rd game at "The Theatre Of Dreams" following the announcement of his retirement after 26 years at the club.

On a day of high emotion, decorated by the presentation of the Premier League trophy for the 13th time, Old Trafford spent 90 minutes, plus an added three minutes of so-called "Fergie time", celebrating the glittering career of the 71-year-old Scot.

The statistics of the afternoon were almost a sideline. Javier Hernandez gave United a first-half lead, Michu equalising for Swansea before Ferdinand's finish three minutes from time completed the formalities.

Ferguson, who never felt the need to move into his technical area once, joined his players on the pitch after the final whistle, taking the microphone to reflect on his career.

He paid tribute to players, supporters and those at United who supported him in troubled early years before calling on Old Trafford to give its full support to new manager David Moyes once he completes his switch from Everton.

Ferguson then returned with his triumphant squad to complete what has become a familiar ritual during his Manchester United career, lifting the Premier League trophy - this time having reclaimed it from arch-rivals Manchester City.

The players' entrance, where United's team coach arrives, was packed three hours before kick-off in anticipation of Ferguson's final arrival as manager at Old Trafford.

And in an atmosphere of celebration and sentimentality, the mood was captured as Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" played out over the public address system in tribute to Ferguson.

Ferguson says emotional farewell

Ferguson waited in the tunnel while 70,000 red flags were waved in unison as the Scot was announced as "the man who made the impossible dream possible", before he walked through a guard of honour formed by both sets of players.

He took the thunderous acclaim from all parts of the ground before moving to his familiar seat in the dug-out to oversee proceedings. As he walked out United's electric scoreboard cut brightly through the rain and gloom to show the figures "26.38" - Ferguson's years and Ferguson's trophies at Old Trafford.

The famous old stadium was also saying its farewells to Paul Scholes, who has announced his retirement. He was playing in his 717th United game and received an ovation worthy of his stellar contribution to the Ferguson era.

The game itself was almost incidental, although Hernandez hit the bar in the opening moments before accepting Ashley Williams's dreadful clearance to drill a low finish under Gerhard Tremmel as half-time approached.

Little had been seen of Michu, but after 49 minutes the striker gave the perfect demonstration of the quality that has made him one of the signings of this season when he applied a brilliant flicked finish to Nathan Dyer's cross.

And as United appeared to be sucked into the relaxed mood, Wayne Routledge poked a finish inches wide when he should have hit the target and keeper David de Gea saved well from Pablo Hernandez.

Ferguson made a double change after 66 minutes. Scholes departed Old Trafford to rapturous applause as he was replaced by Anderson while Antonio Valencia replaced Danny Welbeck.

Anderson's impact was almost instant with a low shot that flew inches wide.

And as so often in the Ferguson era, the script took a late twist. There was almost an inevitability about the finale, Ferdinand powering home a finish at the far post to give this gala occasion the perfect conclusion.


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