LONDON: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson virtually conceded defeat in the Premier League title race even before the champions kicked off for a 2-0 win over a Swansea side with ‘nothing’ to play for except pride at Old Trafford.

Asked whether City had ‘one hand’ on the trophy, Ferguson answered: “Probably two hands.”

Ferguson had seen some of the Newcastle-City game on television and conceded it had been “a disappointing result” but did not have any doubts that City had deserved to win.

His challenge then was to lift his players’ spirits ahead of their own game against Swansea. It spoke volumes for his success in doing that and for United’s professionalism that they dominated the first half and led 2-0 at the interval.

Veteran playmaker Paul Scholes opened up with his fourth goal since his new year comeback from retirement and then England winger Ashley Young contributed his sixth in the league. It was a platform to pull United level with City on points but not enough of a platform, of course, for the 10-goal win United needed to pull level on goal difference.

United pressed hard throughout the second half but their finishing was poor. Wayne Rooney twice missed badly and his frustration grew as time went on. It was probably to protect him from his own bad temper than Ferguson sent on Dimitar Berbatov for only his 12th league appearance of the season and in pursuit of his eighth goal.

All in vain.

United can still win the Premier League if they win next week at Sunderland and City failed to win at home to QPR. But already Ferguson and his staff will be thinking about how to strengthen their squad during the summer.

Ferguson has dropped occasional complaints about how City “have bought success” which may be taken as a gentle hint to the owners, the Glazer family, that they need to invest serious money in new players.

Last summer United were unable to persuade Wesley Sneijder to leave Internazionale. Considering the great influence played at City by Yaya Toure and David Silva that may be considered a costly failure of ambition.

A failure which means United are likely to complete their first season without a trophy since 2005.

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