West Brom 5 Man Utd 5
Just like Alex Ferguson’s amazing reign, it was a rollercoaster at the Hawthorns filled with goals, breathtaking attacking play and a late comeback as the Scot brought down the curtain on an amazing career.
But this time it was not the United manager’s side who delivered a dramatic resurgence.
Ferguson saw out his career watching the opposing side delivering the inspiring comeback that is the hallmark of his Manchester United side.
And it was West Brom manager Steve Clarke who made the substitute that turned the game — so often the habit of Ferguson but at least the Scot knows this late collapse will not tarnish anyone’s memories of the man that goes out a champion.
Michael Carrick, the United midfielder, says it is now time to move on but this was an unforgettable affair that will live long in the memory.
“It’s a bit funny in the dressing room because of the situation. We’ve thanked the manager for everything he’s done and he’s thanked us,” Carrick said.
“We’re ready to move on and there are new challenges for all of us.
“We’re looking forward to it. The manager wanted to win but the job for the season is done. I’m sure he can retire very satisfied.”
Ferguson said he was too emotional to discuss the game with even the club’s in-house media channel after the game, and although he gave the press one last dodge, it was hard to argue that this was not an emotive moment.
The Baggies were the hosts at the Hawthorns but this was not supposed to be their day. They were the guests at their own home in what was Ferguson’s 1,500th game as manager of the team he turned from a sleeping giant into one of the world’s most famous clubs.
There was a guard of honour for the English champions and also for the retiring 71-year-old who was applauded by both sets of fans despite a hint of booing from a minority of Baggies supporters.
United have enjoyed their title celebrations over recent weeks but the outgoing manager would not have accepted weary legs yesterday.
And there were none to be found in the early stages. Attacking from the first whistle, two goals in a pulsating 10 minutes looked to have set-up one final waltz for Ferguson.
Shinji Kagawa had barely stopped smiling from opening the scoring when Jonas Olsson gave Ferguson his own personal gift with an own goal. When the third went in, Alexander Buttner’s second goal in red, it looked like United were set to see off their great boss in emphatic fashion, just how he would have liked it.
However, James Morrison’s goal gave the Baggies hope before half-time substitute Romelu Lukaku put them back in it after the break.
United fans packed out the away end at the Hawthorns and there were reports of thousands outside trying to get in for a glimpse of a Ferguson side one last time.
Those that were there, some too young to remember a time before Ferguson, some old enough to know the struggles that occurred before his arrival, wanted to see off the man who has given them magical moments in a sensational period spanning three decades.
Those supporters only broke from chanting, mainly for their leader Ferguson, when celebrating goals but there was a hint of worry that West Brom had lifted themselves off their deckchairs to spoil the party following the Morrison and Lukaku strikes.
Robin Van Persie and Javier Hernandez goals seemed to put the Baggies back on their holidays and United supporters back into delirium but it was short lived.
Ferguson brought on veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to see the game out.
However in his final 21 minutes of professional football, Scholes could only get the token yellow card that he has been known for rather than one of the spectacular goals he has been renowned for.
Although not even a man of Ferguson’s experience, who has seen it all in football, could have envisaged the first 5-5 draw in the Premier League.
Lukaku got another before Youssouf Mulumbu got the fourth in what was an amazing finale to an utterly odd encounter.
Ferguson looked annoyed when Lukaku bulged Anders Lindegaard’s net for the fifth and final time, but West Brom boss Clarke revealed the Scot was still in good spirits as they shared a glass of red.
“You cannot analyse it, you just sit back and enjoy,” said Clarke.
“We had a great plan A and it went out the window. Man United showed why they were champions, they were irresistible at the start.
“I think he is just ready for his retirement. It was a great game and he complimented us which was very nice.
“He will remember that game, anybody who is here will not forget that.”
Clarke is certainly correct. Nobody will forget Ferguson’s reign and few will forget the frantic finale.
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