Rio Ferdinand was delighted to give Alex Ferguson a winning send-off in his final Old Trafford match as Manchester United manager following the “devastating” news the long-serving Scot would be stepping down at the end of the season.
Ferdinand smashed home an 87th-minute goal to earn United victory over Swansea yesterday to ensure Ferguson finished on a high in his final home match after 26 years in charge.
“To win at Old Trafford, the man’s desire to win football matches, to keep bringing success to the football club, he deserved to have three points in his last home game,” said Ferdinand, who revealed the players’ shock when Ferguson announced to them he was stepping down.
“Obviously it was a personal moment between him and the squad, it’s emotional, he’s had so many years here, it’s his second home.
“For us to hear him say it, we were devastated, but as you know this is a great club, we have to move on and that’s what he wants.”
Ferdinand is out of contract at the end of the season but the 34-year-old is hoping Ferguson can influence the powers that be at United to give him a new one.
“It’d be nice. I’ll have to speak to the board and hopefully the manager puts in a good word in for me!”
United lost the Premier League title in agonising fashion to Manchester City last season but bounced back to reclaim the trophy in convincing style this season – the 13th time under Ferguson.
Part of the reason for this season’s success was the arrival last summer of the prolific Robin van Persie from Arsenal.
The Dutchman was thrilled to get his hands on a Premier League winner’s medal after failing to manage it during eight seasons with the Gunners.
“It was amazing, it was heavy!
“I couldn’t have wished for this year to be any better, only in my wildest dreams could I have wished it be like this.”
On finding out Ferguson was leaving, van Persie added: “It was a really sad day. Everybody understands it.”
Another of United’s veterans, winger Ryan Giggs, said Ferguson was determined to win yesterday’s match.
“He just said play the game and not the occasion. He wanted to win the game, he wanted his last game at Old Trafford to be entertaining and to win and to do all the things we’ve done over the years since he’s been manager,” said Giggs.
“All players have got a part of play, whether they are players who have not achieved much or older players who drive them on.”
On his favourite memory of Ferguson, the 39-year-old Welshman said: “There’s not a favourite time. The memories that stick out are ones from when I was younger and 13, 14, playing for Salford boys. I would look over to the sideline and there is the manager of Manchester United. That is amazing for a 13-year-old and the relationship has just built.”
While the likes of Paul Scholes and Giggs are celebrating the latest in a long line of title successes with United, defender Phil Jones — like Van Persie — was enjoying life as a first-time winner.
The 21-year-old said: “You dream of things like that as a kid and you hope it one day happens, and it’s an incredible feeling.”
Ferguson recently suggested Jones had the ability to become the greatest player in United’s history.
“It makes me feel bigger. I admire the comments but it doesn’t stop there, you have to keep playing and as long as I play the way I have I’m sure things will be good.”
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