Manchester United 4 (Fletcher, Giggs, Park, OG) v Stoke City 0
Manchester United fans have seen their fair share of Premiership deciding final day dramas over the years: this was not one of them. By the time midfielder Darren Fletcher gave United the lead on the half hour of a must win game against Stoke City at Old Trafford, table topping Chelsea were already 1-0 up against ten man Wigan and the three points they needed to clinch the title were for all intents and purposes already in the bag.
Ryan Giggs stretched the lead before half time but by the time Park Ji-Sung headed in a fourth near the end to add to an own goal forced on Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham following some great work by Wayne Rooney inside the box soon after the break, the whole exercise was merely academic. The Premiership trophy was already on the way to West London for the first time since 2006.
A topsy turvy season full of twists and turns during which the lead changed hands on no fewer than 22 occasions produced a totally predictable outcome as updates of Chelsea’s 8-0 romp meant that despite a polished performance, the champions knew that any hope of a record breaking fourth successive title were dashed.
Requiring a dramatic final twist, United would only have retained the title if they had defeated Stoke and lowly Wigan had either forced a draw or produced a shock win at Stamford Bridge. United ultimately paid the price for losing control of the title race with last month’s 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea and the subsequent scoreless draw at Blackburn. Those crucial results ended up costing the champions their crown.
Rooney was replaced after 75 minutes after aggravating a groin injury which will have England manager Fabio Capello edgily awaiting details before naming his provisional 30 man World Cup squad on Tuesday. The striker looked in discomfort as he was coming off but Ferguson is confident that the problem is not a serious one.
Sir Alex has no doubt that it’s only a matter of time before United regains the Premiership “Of course we’ll come back next year” he told reporters “It’s what Manchester United do. We’re going to try and bring the title back to the best place in the world”
Ferguson was also full of praise for the United fans, thanking them for their great support. “It has been something of a roller coaster but then it usually is and while we can look back with regret at the outcome of certain games – losing twice to Chelsea certainly ranks as a huge disappointment, there have also been some outstanding achievements and thrilling matches.
Manchester United Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Scholes (Gibson 62), Giggs, Berbatov (Macheda 62), Rooney (Park 77)
Stoke City Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Higginbotham (Collins 66), Delap, Whitehead (Diao 67), Whelan, Etherington, Sidibe (Pugh 66), Fuller
Do you expect Sir Alex to bring the title back to Old Trafford before he retires?