Remembering Alex Ferguson's chaotic last Manchester United match

Seven years on from Alex Ferguson's final match as Manchester United manager, we look back on that choatic 5-5 draw at West Brom.

Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United players after his final match in 2013.   -  Getty Images

May 19, 2013 was the end of an era. After 1,500 matches over nearly 27 years, Alex Ferguson's time as Manchester United drew to an end in fittingly thrilling fashion.

Perhaps it may have been truer to form if United had seen out Ferguson's tenure with a win, but there was something delightfully satisfying and apt about him overseeing a chaotic 5-5 draw to finish off.

Having already said his farewells to the Old Trafford crowd a week earlier after a 2-1 win over Swansea City, urging the supporters to back his successor David Moyes, Ferguson's champions had one last hurdle to overcome before a new era began.

West Brom was its host at the Hawthorns in a match that looked like giving the wily Scot a typically emphatic send-off – but the match action proved memorable for entirely different reasons.

'Crazy. Wonderful. Entertaining. Outrageous'

Sir Alex Ferguson lifts the Premier League title at the end of the 2012/13 season.   -  Alex Livesey/Getty Images

 

"If I needed a result to epitomise what Manchester United were about it came in game No. 1,500, my last," Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. "West Bromwich Albion 5-5 Manchester United. Crazy. Wonderful. Entertaining. Outrageous. If you were on your way to watch Manchester United, you were in for goals and drama."

Ferguson – who was given a guard of honour by the players and, amusingly, West Brom's huge mascot Baggie Bird – made plenty of changes to his side, though initially there were few signs of disruption, as with six minutes played Shinji Kagawa was the unlikely recipient of an even rarer phenomenon – an accurate cross from Javier Hernandez.

A Jonas Olsson own goal from a drilled Antonio Valencia cross made it 2-0 soon after, before Tom Cleverly fed Alexander Buttner to deliver a rasping finish – their combination highlighting the extent of Ferguson's rotation.

James Morrison pulled one back just before the break, but it was a change made by Steve Clarke at half-time that ultimately proved most decisive, as Romelu Lukaku replaced defender Liam Ridgewell.

The Belgian beat the unimpressive Anders Lindegaard with a tame effort from distance four minutes after coming on, only for Robin van Persie to steer home another Valencia delivery a few moments later and Hernandez tapped in a Ryan Giggs pass to seemingly wrap up the win.

But United's collapse was remarkable. Lukaku raced on to a throughball to beat Lindegaard again with 10 minutes left, before Youssouf Mulumbu finished off a well-worked move to make it 5-4.

READ: On This Day: Ferguson's final game, Deportivo drama and Monaco madness

Lukaku completed his first career hat-trick when bundling over the line in the 86th minute, and United was fortunate to hold on to a point.

'David Moyes has just resigned'

David Moyes' appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor did not go down well as the Scot was sacked by the club exactly one year from sealing the 2012-13 Premier League title.   -  Getty Images

 

"I told them, 'Thanks boys. Bloody great send-off you've given me'," Ferguson wrote later that year. "David Moyes had already been named as my successor; as we sat in the dressing room after the match, Ryan Giggs teased: 'David Moyes has just resigned'."

It was the fifth time in Premier League history United had conceded five times or more in a single match, though the previous four occasions had all been defeats.

The thriller was also the highest-scoring draw in an English top-flight match since 1984 when QPR and Newcastle United also shared 10 goals.

Everything about the match was box-office – an own goal, bad goalkeeping, hapless defending, all-out attack and the old managerial master being pegged back by the hopeful young upstart.

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Lukaku was 20 years and six days at the time, making him the youngest player to ever score a hat-trick against United – a record he still holds.

Thankfully for United, the Premier League title was already locked away, safe and secure from the 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City. Had it not been, this day would likely be remembered entirely differently.

The legacy

Alex Ferguson led the praise of health organisations fighting the coronavirus pandemic as Manchester United announced donations.

Alex Ferguson led Manchester United to 13 top-flight titles during his 26-year tenure at Old Trafford.   -  Getty Images

 

Ferguson's association with United will probably be remembered as the greatest managerial tenure of all time – many would argue that to be the case now, and with the modern sport rarely allowing for such time and trust, it's difficult to see anyone ever replicating such success or longevity with a single club.

Although he managed clubs for 39 years, 70 per cent of his 2,145 official matches in club management were at United, for whom his 895 wins is, unsurprisingly, a record.

The Scot also won 13 top-flight titles in England, more than twice as many as anyone else, while his 1999 Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble is yet to be repeated.

ALSO READ: When Sir Alex Ferguson gave Nani the silent treatment

Ferguson's successes continue to hold great weight at Old Trafford. That era seems to have prevalence in many of the decisions the club still makes – from appointing a youth-driven Ferguson 'disciple' in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to refusing to appoint a director of football to oversee transfers.

That final match provided everyone with a final reminder of both the quality and excitement Ferguson brought to English football, and the greatest acknowledgement of his ideals is United are still trying to build around them.

Is that the right move? Only time will tell, but they are still searching for their first league title since the peerless Scot's departure. 

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