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Alex Ferguson thankful for 'most fantastic experience'

By Gary Morley, CNN
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun May 12, 2013
Alex Ferguson with the English Premier League trophy after Manchester United's 2-1 win over Swansea. Alex Ferguson with the English Premier League trophy after Manchester United's 2-1 win over Swansea.
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United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
United fans farewell Alex Ferguson
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alex Ferguson farewells Manchester United fans with 2-1 home victory on Sunday
  • Scot is retiring after more than 26 years in charge at the English soccer club
  • His 1,500th and final match will be at West Bromwich Albion next weekend
  • Ferguson confirms that striker Wayne Rooney has asked to leave United

(CNN) -- It was a fitting end to a remarkable era -- Alex Ferguson celebrated his final home game as manager of Manchester United with a dramatic late victory against Swansea on Sunday.

While the result made no difference to either side's season, the jubilation that followed a rare winner from veteran defender Rio Ferdinand brought echoes from some of the 71-year-old's long list of triumphs in more than quarter of a century at the helm.

"My retirement doesn't mean the end of my life at the club. I will be able to enjoy watching them rather than suffering with them," Ferguson told the crowd in pouring rain at Old Trafford, which included his 11 grandchildren in the stands.

"But if you think about it, those last-minute goals, comebacks, even the defeats, are all part of this great football club of ours. It's been an unbelievable experience so thank you for that.

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"I'd also like to remind you that when we had bad times here the club stood by me, the players stood by me, and your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important."

Read: Underdog's shock FA Cup success

Ferguson's replacement will be David Moyes, who is leaving United's English Premier League rivals Everton after more than a decade as manager.

He will begin preparations for United's title defense when he formally takes over in July, with Ferguson's legacy being 13 league championships, two European Cups, five FA Cups, four League Cups, one European Cup Winners' Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.

This season United regained the EPL crown from bitter rivals Manchester City, securing it with four games to play.

"It has been the most fantastic experience of my life. Thank you," said Ferguson, the most successful manager in English football.

"I have been very fortunate, I've been able to manage some of the greatest players in the country let alone Manchester United.

"All these players here today, they have represented our club the proper way and have won a championship in fantastic fashion. Well done to the players."

Read: End of an era as Fergie retires

United took the lead six minutes before halftime through striker Javier Hernandez, but Swansea stunned the home fans when Michu volleyed in at the near post just four minutes after the interval for his 18th league goal this season.

If the Spaniard's effort was a typically predatory strike, Ferdinand's stunning 87th-minute volley came out of the blue -- the former England center-back's first goal in more than five years.

It also capped a home farewell for 38-year-old midfielder Paul Scholes, who announced on Saturday that he is retiring for the second time and will return to the club's coaching ranks.

Alex Ferguson has announced he is retiring at the end of this season, having won his 13th English Premier League title in more than 26 years as manager of Manchester United. Alex Ferguson has announced he is retiring at the end of this season, having won his 13th English Premier League title in more than 26 years as manager of Manchester United.
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
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In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
As a player, Alex Ferguson enjoyed a moderately successful career. A prolific striker, he scored 170 goals in 317 appearances including 25 goals in 41 appearances for Glasgow Rangers.
As a player, Alex Ferguson enjoyed a moderately successful career. A prolific striker, he scored 170 goals in 317 appearances including 25 goals in 41 appearances for Glasgow Rangers.
A formidable forward
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The seven moments which define Alex Ferguson The seven moments which define Alex Ferguson
Everton manager David Moyes (left) and Manchester United's soon-to-retire boss Alex Ferguson (right) are pictured during the FA Cup semifinal match between their two teams at Wembley Stadium in April 2009. United announced Wednesday that Ferguson, 71, will be retiring at the end of the season after more than a quarter of a century at the helm. Everton manager David Moyes (left) and Manchester United's soon-to-retire boss Alex Ferguson (right) are pictured during the FA Cup semifinal match between their two teams at Wembley Stadium in April 2009. United announced Wednesday that Ferguson, 71, will be retiring at the end of the season after more than a quarter of a century at the helm.
David Moyes: Alex Ferguson's successor
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David Moyes: Alex Ferguson\'s successor David Moyes: Alex Ferguson's successor

"Paul is one of the greatest players this club has ever had and ever will have," said Ferguson, who brought Scholes into the first team from the youth ranks along with a "golden generation" that included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

"I wish you a great retirement and I know you will still be around annoying me!" added the Scot, who will remain at Old Trafford as a director on the board and as a club ambassador.

Read: Moyes named as Ferguson's successor

One player who didn't feature in the match was England striker Wayne Rooney, who watched from the stands before joining the celebrations on the pitch.

Ferguson later confirmed that Rooney has asked to leave the club, so he thought it was best to give the 27-year-old time to reflect on his decision.

"I think he wants to think it through in his mind -- I think that's a good idea. We're not going to let him go," Ferguson said.

"I think maybe he is a bit frustrated. He has been taken off once or twice in the past couple of weeks."

Ferguson also revealed that he had made his decision to retire last December because he wanted to spend more time with his wife Cathy, who had recently lost her sister.

The win put United 13 points clear of City ahead of Ferguson's 1,500th and final United game away to West Brom next Sunday.

City's season suffered another setback on Saturday with a 1-0 defeat to lowly Wigan in the FA Cup final, which has sparked speculation that manager Roberto Mancini will be sacked.

While City sealed the second of England's Champions League places last weekend, the other two are still up for grabs.

Tottenham moved above London rivals Arsenal into fourth place with a 2-1 win at Stoke on Sunday, as Emmanuel Adebayor scored the decisive goal with seven minutes to play.

Stoke led early through Steven Nzonzi but Clint Dempsey -- who set up Adebayor's winner -- equalized before the home side had Charlie Adam sent off just after halftime.

Arsenal can regain fourth place with victory over Wigan on Tuesday in a match that the third-bottom team needs to win to have any chance of avoiding relegation.

Moyes will leave Everton in sixth place following a 2-0 win over West Ham, with both goals coming from Belgian striker Kevin Mirallas.

Liverpool stayed seventh with a 3-1 win at Fulham as a hat-trick from striker Dean Sturridge meant the London side may need a point in the final round to avoid relegation.

Newcastle and Norwich both won on Sunday to ensure another season in the top flight, respectively beating bottom club Queens Park Rangers 2-1 and eighth-placed West Brom 4-0.

Sunderland could have condemned Wigan to the drop just a day after the club's biggest success at Wembley, but drew 1-1 with Southampton to stay in the relegation mix.

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