Ferguson gets perfect send-off as United leave it late

LONDON Sun May 12, 2013 11:58pm IST

1 of 2. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson waves to the crowd while arriving on the pitch at Old Trafford for the last time before retiring, before the English Premier League soccer match against Swansea City at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, northern England May 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United scored a trademark late goal to seal a 2-1 Premier League victory over Swansea City on Sunday which gave Alex Ferguson the perfect sendoff in his last home match as manager of the Old Trafford club.

Rio Ferdinand struck three minutes from time to hand Ferguson a win in his 1,499th match in charge of United and the manager held the Premier League trophy aloft in emotional scenes at the Theatre of Dreams.

"What a send-off, my eyes were bubbling a bit," Ferguson told Sky Sports. "The atmosphere was unbelievable and I'm very proud of my fans.

"The boys did great, it was a good game actually. Some good football was played. I was really proud of them."

Earlier, Emmanuel Adebayor struck late to earn Tottenham Hotspur a 2-1 at Stoke City that kept their slim hopes of Champions League qualification alive.

David Moyes, Ferguson's replacement as United manager, watched Everton beat West Ham United 2-0 in his last home match in charge of the Merseyside club.

Norwich City and Newcastle United ensured their Premier League survival with one match left in the season. Norwich crushed West Bromwich Albion 4-0 and Newcastle won 2-1 at relegated Queens Park Rangers.

Ferguson was given a rapturous reception by the Old Trafford crowd and a Guard of Honour by the players as he walked out before the game in a sea of red at Old Trafford.

United started brightly and opened the scoring after 38 minutes when Mexican striker Javier Hernandez reacted quickly to slot home a loose ball from six metres.

Swansea enjoyed plenty of possession and they were rewarded three minutes after halftime when striker Michu got in front of Phil Jones to divert a right-wing cross past David de Gea in the United goal.

Paul Scholes, starting his 717th and last match for United, was substituted in the 66th minute and left the pitch to more warm applause from the United faithful.

Ferguson sent on veteran Ryan Giggs to try to inspire a winning goal but Swansea, this season's League Cup winners, continued to threaten to spoil the party.

RUNNING OUT

With time running out, however, a corner from the right fell kindly for Ferdinand at the far post and the England defender lashed the ball in for his first goal in five years.

After Ferguson addressed the crowd, he returned with his players to lift the 13th Premier League title of his 26-year reign at the club.

"My retirement doesn't mean the end of my life with the club," said Ferguson who will stay at United as a director.

"I will be able to now enjoy watching them, rather than suffer with them. But if you think about the last-minute goals, the comebacks, even the defeats, are all about this great club of ours.

"It's been an unbelievable experience for all of us. So thank you for that."

Spurs trailed to Steven Nzonzi's early goal at Stoke but Clint Dempsey equalised and after Stoke's Charlie Adam was sent early the second half, the visitors made their advantage count when striker Adebayor tapped in at the far post after 83 minutes.

Tottenham climbed above Arsenal into fourth place, three points behind Chelsea, who won 2-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday, with one match left. Arsenal trail Spurs by two points but have two games to play.

Moyes received a warm reception from the crowd after 11 years at Goodison Park. His side took an early lead through Kevin Mirallas and the Belgian forward sealed victory with a deflected shot in the second half.

Robert Snodgrass struck after 25 minutes to set up Norwich's comfortable win over West Brom and Grant Holt, Gareth McAuley's own goal and Jonny Howson's late strike completed the rout.

Newcastle fell behind to Loic Remy's early penalty for QPR but Hatem Ben Arfa equalised from the spot and Yoan Gouffran grabbed the winner before halftime.

Sunderland broke the deadlock against Southampton with a 69th-minute goal from defender Phil Bardsley but Jason Puncheon equalised eight minutes later and the game ended 1-1.

Sunderland are only four points above Wigan Athletic, who have two games left, leaving their manager Paolo Di Canio to face a nervous final week of the season.

Fulham led Liverpool through Dimitar Berbatov's early goal but Daniel Sturridge equalised after 36 minutes and scored again midway through the second half before completing his first hat-trick for the club five minutes from time.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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