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Emotions run high as Manchester United mark Ferguson's 25th anniversary

updated 5:21 PM EDT, Sat November 5, 2011
Manchester United renamed Old Trafford's North Stand in honor of legendary manager Alex Ferguson ahead of Saturday's match with Sunderland and his 25th anniversary at the club. Manchester United renamed Old Trafford's North Stand in honor of legendary manager Alex Ferguson ahead of Saturday's match with Sunderland and his 25th anniversary at the club.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manchester United manager honored by renaming of club's main stand
  • Alex Ferguson celebrates 25 years at Old Trafford with win over Sunderland
  • United five points behind league leaders Manchester City, who beat QPR 3-2
  • Newcastle in third place after 2-1 win at home to struggling Blackburn

(CNN) -- Alex Ferguson has endured many highs and lows in his 25 years at Manchester United, so perhaps it was fitting that Saturday's much-anticipated anniversary celebration featured some of both extremes.

The Scot is the most successful manager in British football, and his status as the longest-serving one in United's history was cemented when the English Premier League champions renamed the biggest stand at Old Trafford in his honor.

It is the first time in the ground's 101 years that a section has been named after an individual. Club officials have also commissioned an award-winning Scottish sculptor, Philip Jackson, to build a statue of the 69-year-old to be erected outside the stand's entrance next year.

"I was really emotional. I couldn't believe it. I didn't expect that. I have to thank the club, it's fantastic of them to do that," Ferguson told reporters after the nervy 1-0 victory over Sunderland.

United he stands: The real Alex Ferguson

The match was won thanks to an own-goal by former United defender Wes Brown just before halftime, and kept United in second place in the table -- five points behind local rivals Manchester City, who battled to a 3-2 win at Queens Park Rangers in the late kickoff.

If there's one quote to associate with Ferguson's reign, it's surely that which he offered up in 2002. "My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f**king perch...and you can print that," he said. When United claimed their 19th title last season, eclipsing Liverpool's record, he achieved his aim. If there's one quote to associate with Ferguson's reign, it's surely that which he offered up in 2002. "My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f**king perch...and you can print that," he said. When United claimed their 19th title last season, eclipsing Liverpool's record, he achieved his aim.
1. Knocking Liverpool "off their perch"
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Ferguson\'s top 25 Manchester United moments Ferguson's top 25 Manchester United moments
Bobby Charlton on 25 years of Ferguson

Sunderland, managed by Steve Bruce -- whose headed goal against Sheffield Wednesday gave Ferguson his first of 12 English titles in the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season -- almost spoiled the celebrations.

Referee Lee Mason awarded the visitors a penalty in the 68th minute when his linesman Jake Collin flagged that young United defender Phil Jones had handled the ball, but then overturned the decision.

"That last 15 minutes was torture," Ferguson said. "I'd have been quite happy if the whistle had gone at halftime when we were 1-0 up. Sunderland threw everything at us and played very well in that last 15 minutes."

Ferguson said the week's hype may have got to his team.

"It was an anxious day for the players. I think they showed that. They wanted to do well for me," he said.

"These occasions can be a wee bit like that. I remember the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and we lost 2-0 to Manchester City. That got to the players that day. Maybe it happened a little bit today."

It was an anxious day for the players. I think they showed that. They wanted to do well for me
Alex Ferguson

Bruce was at United for nine years as a player, but has yet to beat his former boss in 17 attempts as a manager.

"He welcomed me in with a great glass of wine and said, 'Unlucky again'. I'll be his age before I get a result here," Bruce said.

"But I have to say the tribute, naming the stand after him -- I've never known anything at Manchester United kept a secret. It's quite remarkable and fitting, too.

"I said to him maybe he's taken his finger off the pulse because he didn't know what was going on!"

However, Manchester City showed that United have a real challenge to add to Ferguson's long list of trophies after coming from behind the first time in the league this season to beat a QPR side that has already defeated Chelsea.

Roberto Mancini's men crushed Villarreal 3-0 in the Champions League in midweek, but went behind in the 28th minute when striker Jay Bothroyd headed in Joey Barton's free-kick.

Edin Dzeko leveled two minutes before halftime with his 10th league goal this season, with the Bosnia striker cutting inside defender Anton Ferdinand -- who is at the center of the racism allegations aimed at Chelsea's England captain John Terry -- and slotted in a low shot.

City's playmaker David Silva showed his customary sublime control to take Dzeko's low cross and fire in at the near post seven minutes after the break, but QPR leveled on 69 when Bothroyd's header hit teammate Heidar Helguson in the back and deflected past wrongfooted goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Yaya Toure followed up Wednesday's goal in Spain with another crucial strike as the Ivory Coast midfielder leaped high to head the 74th-minute winner, leaving promoted QPR in 12th place.

Newcastle's impressive run continued with a 2-1 win at home to Everton that kept Alan Pardew's team three points clear of fourth-placed Chelsea.

An own-goal from Everton defender Johnny Heitinga and a superb long-range shot from fullback Ryan Taylor put Newcastle 2-0 ahead by the half hour, while Jack Rodwell reduced the deficit in time added on at the end of the first period.

Chelsea, still awaiting the outcome of the investigation into Terry's alleged comments by both police and the English FA, bounced back from two successive league defeats with a 1-0 victory at struggling Blackburn.

Midfielder Frank Lampard scored his sixth goal this campaign to leave the home side in the bottom three, with defender Terry starting after being rested for the 1-1 European draw with Belgian side Genk on Tuesday.

Liverpool missed the chance to move above fifth-placed Tottenham -- who travel to Fulham on Sunday -- after being held 0-0 by mid-table Swansea.

Striker Andy Carroll hit the bar as Kenny Dalglish's team dropped points at home for the third match in a row, while the promoted Welsh side moved to 10th place.

Arsenal joined Spurs and Liverpool on 19 points after a 3-0 win at home to West Brom, again inspired by Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman responded to being named as a substitute in the midweek 0-0 draw with Marseille by scoring his league-leading 11th goal this season from close range in the 22nd minute.

He then set up defender Thomas Vermaelen six minutes before halftime, and was involved in Mikel Arteta's 74th-minute strike as Arsene Wenger's team notched a fifth successive league victory.

Aston Villa moved up to eighth on 15 points with a 3-2 victory at home to Norwich, which lifted Alex McLeish's team above the promoted visitors.

Villa came from behind as Darren Bent canceled out Anthony Pilkington's 25th-minute opener, and Gabriel Agbonlahor pounced on a defensive error before setting up his strike partner's second goal on 62 -- which made Steve Morison's late effort a consolation for ninth-placed City.

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