Sir Alex Ferguson’s more than 26 years in charge of Manchester United came to an end in thrilling circumstances as West Bromwich Albion fought back to earn a stunning 5-5 draw at the Hawthorns. In what was Ferguson’s 1500th and final match at the helm before retirement, United looked set to give him a winning send off as they led 3-0 and then 5-2. But the home side incredibly secured a share of the points, helped by a hat-trick from Romelu Lukaku.
Shinji Kagawa, an own goal from Jonas Olsson and a strike by Alexander Buttner had put United into a 3-0 lead inside the first 30 minutes. But James Morrison and Lukaku made it 3-2 with strikes either side of half-time before Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez restored United’s three-goal advantage. Steve Clarke’s side were not prepared to accept defeat, though, and two more goals from Lukaku, sandwiching a Youssuf Mulumbu strike produced a dramatic finale.
Such an ending at any other point in Ferguson’s relentlessly successful reign would have undoubtedly provoked outrage in the manger, but on this occasion the Scot was still able to smile and wave to the crowd before heading down the tunnel for the final time. He did so with plenty of justification too, as United finished 11 points clear of Manchester City in a season in which they claimed the Premier League title for the 13th time under his reign.
United were dominant early on and looked set for a resounding win. Hernandez was given too much space to cross down the right and Kagawa was able to get free at the near post to head home. And it was 2-0 inside 10 minutes. Antonio Valencia, playing at right back drilled a low cross in and Olsson turned the ball into his own net on the stretch. The wait would not be long for a third goal. Buttner arrived onto Tom Cleverley’s pass in acres of space and drilled the ball low into the far corner past a beleaguered Ben Foster.
Yet, the first signs that there may be a twist in the proceedings for United came when West Brom pulled a goal back five minutes before the break as Morrison steered Graham Dorrans’ cross past Anders Lindegaard. And five minutes after the restart the deficit was just one when Lukaku steered a shot into the corner from outside the box.
The joy would be short lived. Van Persie stylishly directed Valencia’s cross into the net for his 26th goal in the Premier League this season, before Hernandez produced a typical close-range finish from Ryan Giggs’s low center.
Few then would have expected another even more dramatic twist. But with 10 minutes remaining Lukaku slotted a cool finish past Lindegaard and then three minutes later an impressive West Brom move ended with Mulumbu stroking the ball into the net. And with less than five minutes on the clock Lukaku -- completing a season-long Wfrom Chelsea -- somewhat spoiled Ferguson’s party as he scrambled the ball in on the line.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.