KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Monday was the bus-top celebration, weather permitting. Hence Sunday was not the end but had been at least the beginning of the end both for Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes.
Across on Merseyside Goodison Park had waved goodbye to their manager knowing he will be back next season as the man in charge of Manchester United. Over at Old Trafford Ferguson had taken his last Old Trafford bow as manager of the newly re-crowned and record-extending Premier League champions.
Both men went out as winners.
The opposition at Old Trafford was provided by Swansea with the knowledge that all will be done and dusted for the Scot only next Sunday at West Bromwich.
Match 1,499 in Ferguson’s Manchester career was the one on which the occasion would matter far more than the result.
The drama would be found on the pitch but in the ceremonial action at the end of the 90 minutes not in the match itself. This was merely the prelude.
Ferguson himself would have been the only individual in the ground not viewing it that way. His ferocious will to win would not be dimmed by the moment for all that his programme notes repeated the midweek statement of farewell.
These were thus printed into record-sale rush with all the same tributes to his wife and family, to David Gill, to Sir Bobby Charlton, to his players and staff and to the Glazers.
Not all his players may have quite reciprocated. As the fans were reading the programme so Wayne Rooney was discovering that he was not only not in United’s starting line-up but not even on the substitutes’ bench at kickoff.
Everton had begun Moyes’s last home game one hour earlier. The start was promising. Kevin Mirallas opened the scoring against West Ham after only six minutes. Everton still led 1-0 at the start of their second half when Swansea were kicking off at Old Trafford.
The crowd was a cheering, partying see of giveaway red flags red with the exception of the Swansea corner. A touch of United class saw even the visiting supporters provided with white flags acknowledging them as League Cup winners.
Ferguson walked out between a guard of honour of both teams, chewing gum, hands in pockets initially but then out to wave to the fans and applaud them as he walked around to the bench. He even went over to the crowd to sign some autographs and last-match programmes for fans.
So to the football.
Snubbing Rooney for his recently expressed wish to move on was balanced by the inclusion of veteran midfielder Paul Scholes who is accompanying Ferguson into retirement.
United controlled the first half, playing some attractive football, and took the lead with seven minutes remaining of the first half. Swansea failed to clear a cross and Chicharito Hernandez pounced to rap an angled shot up beyond keeper Gerhard Tremmel’s right hand.
Everton, with a second goal from Mirallas, provided a winning Goodison goodbye for Moyes – who enjoyed his own formal farewell after the final whistle – while United and Swansea were enjoying their half-time break.
Swansea then wiped the smile off Ferguson’s face three minutes into the second off when Michu volleyed a smart equaliser.
Ferguson’s changes to sharpen up his team included bringing off Scholes on 65 minutes to a standing ovation from the fans on his own last appearance for the club. Nine minutes later Ryan Giggs, greatest survivor of Ferguson’s era, appeared in place of Hernandez.
Remarkably, with three minutes remaining, it was yet another ‘golden oldie’ in Rio Ferdinand who smashed what promised to be the winner with his first goal in more than five years.
The veteran England defender was United’s 20th scorer along the road to the club’s record-extending 20th league title.
The final whistle signalled both the end of victory number 895 and the start of celebrations featuring Ferguson’s farewell speech to the Old Trafford fans and the collection of their 38th trophy together.
The last one.