It has, it seems, been a week of farewells, with Manchester United fans waving Sir Alex Ferguson goodbye from both Old Trafford’s stands and the city centre scaffolds. The orchestrated celebrations served up by the club as Swansea City visited last weekend were followed by a mass outpouring as United paraded the Premier League trophy through Manchester centre on Monday. After more than 26 years in the job, even Sir Alex was caught by surprise by the scale of emotion.
There will be no Pyongang-style mass hysteria at the Hawthornes on Sunday, but Ferguson will surely be more than a little upset should United not beat West Bromwich Albion in the manager’s 1500th and final game. With little on the line bar pride and the perfect send off, United’s players must overcome a week of celebrations and a certain inertia to overcome the xxx placed Baggies.
Certainly, United’s form has been far from champion in recent weeks; not since Real Madrid knocked the side out of the Champions League in April. But with a club record points total of 91 available there is at least a small incentive for victory, beyond letting Ferguson slip into retirement on a winning note.
“1500 games – it’s incredible,” said Ferguson at his final Carrington press conference on Friday.
“West Brom have done fantastically, every team wants to win their last home game and obviously I want to win this one more than last week’s even.
“I don’t have any injury problems. I’ll make a few changes – maybe a few younger players will play.
“Anders (Lindegaard) will be in goal. I don’t have Rafael so I need to make a decision about right-back. I want to play Jones and Evans at centre-back – they could be the future. Rio (Ferdinand) and (Nemanja) Vidic will have to have a place on the bench! I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be great.”
“I’ve no idea. It is not my department. I am no longer interested in that. David is going to deal with that. Quite rightly he wants to deal with that and I’m happy with that,” the 71-year-old said.
“I have not spoken to David about that. I’m sure he will address it when he gets here,” he said.
“He has a magnetic power,” Kagawa told ManUtd.jp. “I felt it the first time I met him, from the way he conducts himself and also from working with him on the pitch.
“He communicates well with his players and respects them. As the season went on, I got to communicate with him more, both on football and other subjects. That was important.
“He is a friendly person and his spirit is much younger than his age. I think that’s because of his achievements over the years, and also his personality.
“I wish I could have played much longer under him. What he has achieved for the club is tremendous – he is in a class of his own.”
“Maybe it is,” Giggs said. “But we have a really good bunch of lads in the dressing room and, whenever the manager needs help, the more experienced players will help. That has been the norm, ever since I have been in the club.
“When I was an apprentice, I used to go upstairs at The Cliff [training ground] for my breakfast and see the likes of Brucey, Gary Pallister and Bryan Robson all in the coaches’ room, having a cup of tea and sharing jokes before training.
“That is how it has always been here. The experienced players have always had a good relationship with the staff and helped each other along.
“What David Moyes is coming into is a good atmosphere, a really good bunch of lads, very good players and a really strong squad, so it is a strong position to be in. But the downside is that you have to follow the most successful manager that has ever lived.
“Managers usually go into clubs when things aren’t going great, but this team isn’t on a downward spiral, so I don’t know if that makes it harder or easier for David.”
Manchester United v Swansea City- Premier League, Old Trafford – 4pm, 12 May 2013
United (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Jones, Vidić, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Scholes; Valencia, Kagawa, Welbeck; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Büttner, Evans, Powell, Cleverley, Anderson, Rooney, Nani, Hernández
Swansea (4-3-3): Tremmel; Tiendalli, Williams, Chico, Davies; De Guzman, Britton, Routledge, Pablo, Michu, Shechter. Subs from: Cornell, Bartley, Taylor, Dyer, Agustien, Moore, Donnelly, Monk, Lamah, Situ
Referee: Jon Moss
Assistants: A Halliday, P Bankes
Fourth Official: M Clattenburg
Last 10: United 6, Swansea 1, Draw 3
Overall: United 8, Swansea 6, Draw 5
- Sir Alex takes charge of United at Old Trafford for the final time on Sunday; his 1499th game in charge of the club;
- Ferguson’s captain, Nemanja Vidić made 24 interceptions last weekend in United’s loss to Chelsea at Old Trafford – the highest in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index during the last round of games;
- One of Ferguson’s key demands is his players’ work either – striker Robin van Persie is not only leading the Premier League’s goal scoring charts this season, but has made more clearances than any other forward in the league with 31;
- Patrice Evra has enjoyed a fine season, winning 64.1 per cent of 82 tackles, completing 624 passes in the opposition half, and delivering 42 crosses, notching up six assists and four goals;
- On the opposite flank Rafael has made 111 defensive contributions including 52 interceptions, while winning 49 of 82 attempted tackles, and has also completed 531 passes in the opposition half;
- Swansea face United shortly after holding Manchester City to a scoreless draw and then beating Wigan Athletic 3-2 with goals from Angel Rangel, Itay Schechter and Dwight Tendalli;
- Ashley Williams garnered Sir Alex’ criticism earlier this season, but showed his value last weekend by making four crucial blocks – the joint highest by a player in the Index;
- Williams has made 388 defensive contributions this season – tackles won, interceptions, blocks and clearances – 50 more than his nearest rival, Fulham’s Brede Hangeland;
- Williams’ defensive partner Chico attempted his 100th tackle of the season in the last round of games – one of 22 players in the Index to have done so, and while being one of only five to have maintained a winning tackle percentage of over 60 per cent.