Sir Alex Ferguson will take charge of Manchester United for the very last time on Sunday against WBA
So, after 1,500 games – Sir Alex Ferguson is to wave goodbye to English football and Manchester United as he bows out a champion at The Hawthorns on Sunday. United’s legendary manager has won 38 trophies since he took over from Ron Atkinson (who ironically left WBA to join Manchester United) back in November 1986.
Although the title was wrapped out weeks ago and the game, for United fans anyway, will be about saying goodbye to the greatest manager of all time – Sir Alex will want to go out with a win. United beat WBA 2-0 at Old Trafford in the last game of 2012, with an own goal from and a a last minute strike by United top scorer Robin van Persie.
Here we discuss the match preview including a potential line up, team news and a superb view from the opposition. We welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
We caught up with Warren, who kindly caught up with us in the middle of a lads week away, on the final act of Sir Alex Ferguson, losing at Reading and poor old Peter Odemwingie. You can following Warren on Twitter @warren_stephens.
1) Sir Alex Ferguson manages Manchester United for the last time. What are your thoughts on Fergie’s reign and do you think he is the best manager of all time?
His record certainly suggests he is. I went to my first football match in 1986 and even though I’m now in my 30’s he’s all I’ve ever known, it’ll certainly be a different place without him. The emergence of that golden youth team probably helped him, as did the inception of the Champions League elite, but there’s no questioning what he’s achieved. To continually revamp the side and keep his players hungry year-on-year, there will probably never be another like him.
2) Do you think David Moyes is a good appointment?
I think Moyes is a natural appointment. With Fergie still in the background I’m not sure a Mourinho-type character would have quite fitted. He has similarities to Fergie in terms of character, I guess we’ll find out if their similarities extend to winning trophies!
3) How would you sum up Steve Clarke’s reign thus far?
I’m personally quite pleased. He inherited a well-organised side and if anything we’ve improved in an attacking sense without losing too much defensively. Next year will be a bigger test I feel.
4) There was a point earlier in the season were WBA looked like competing for a European place. However, since losing to United in December, the Baggies have only won four games – what went wrong?
I would say a culmination of things, between December and February there were barely any games where we fielded all of our best players in the same starting XI. It was thereafter difficult to retain the same level, if you took key players from most sides in this league they’d probably suffer. Once we slipped away there was arguably a sense of complacency, that we’d already achieved enough. The Odemwingie saga hasn’t particularly helped either.
5) Reading away was a ridiculous game. How did you not win that? And even worse – ended up losing?!
I wish I could tell you! We were 2-0 up and absolutely cruising, I don’t recall Foster making a save all day. They then put three balls into our box and scored three goals. To have drawn would’ve been a sickener, that we lost, it probably took a lot of momentum out of our season.
6) Who has been your best player this season? And the worst?
Gareth McAuley has been our most consistent performer. He’s in his 30’s and we picked him up on a free from Ipswich Town a couple of seasons ago, a few people questioned that, particularly as Wolves forked out 7m for Roger Johnson at roughly the same time. I think it’s fair to say their careers have gone in different directions since!
Most disappointing was probably Markus Rosenberg. We picked him up last summer, he’d scored goals in the Bundesliga and La Liga. However the signing of Romelu Lukaku pushed him down the pecking order and he’s been restricted to substitute appearances in unfamiliar wide positions in which largely, he’d done himself no favours. He has however started our last three games and arguably been man of the match in two, so maybe we’re finally starting to see what he’s capable of.
7) Do you need to strengthen in the summer and, if so, in what areas?
It looks likely that Peter Odemwingie will leave the club, there’s also the possibility that Romelu Lukaku will go back to Chelsea. If that happens we’re effectively losing 25 goals a season. Other than a striker or two we could do with a wide player with pace and maybe adding a bit more depth to the back four and midfield for when key injuries set in. The club has gradually built year-on-year for the last decade or so, but most fans will tell you that this is a crucial summer.
8) Will Peter Odemwingie be at the Hawthorns next season (Clarke recently said he was doubtful) and what did you make of the QPR fiasco!?
It certainly looks unlikely. I don’t doubt that Odemwingie was told to drive to QPR, but his mistake was doing the interview saying he was a QPR player. That in itself, whilst infuriating, isn’t what’s alienated most supporters. It’s his continual Twitter rants against the club and refusal to acknowledge any wrong-doing that’s the reason for the extremely audible boos you’ll hear whenever he plays. He’s even had the cheek to publicly complain that he isn’t starting every week in the aftermath of the QPR saga. Initially the reaction to him was very mixed but now I’d say it’s come to far, it’s best for both parties if he leaves. We will miss his quality though.
9) How will you line up on Sunday and what is your prediction?
We have only Gera missing to injury so it’ll be a much stronger starting XI than the one you saw at Old Trafford. We usually play 4-5-1/4-3-3 but Clarke recently experimented with a 3-5-2 at Manchester City and we arguably should’ve got a point so our line-up’s not cast in stone. We were shocking at Norwich last weekend so I expect a reaction of some sort, hopefully it’ll be a competitive game that does Fergie justice as he bows out.
10) For the final question of our 2012/13 season – how would you sum up the season as a spectacle and are United worthy Champions?
It’s been a fantastic season overall for us. It’s a bit disappointing that the only issue to be resolved on the final day is the race for 4th. United are certainly worthy champions, for me City’s defence of their title, with the squad they have and the obscene amount of money they’ve spent, has been shocking, really poor. Massive credit to Sir Alex Ferguson though, probably fitting that he bows out on top.
A £20 bet on Ryan Giggs to score the first goal wins you £220
A £20 bet on a draw at half time and United to win the match wins you £95
A £20 bet on United to win 2-0 wins you £200
Rafael will miss the game through suspension, having been sent off in the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea two weeks ago. The Brazilian kicked out at fellow countryman David Luiz and was shown a straight red. Ashley Young will miss the match with an ankle injury and Darren Fletcher is a long term absentee.
Zoltan Gera will miss the visit of Manchester United with a knee injury, whilst right back Steven Reid faces a late fitness test. Youngster George Thorne is a long term absentee.
Potential Manchester United team
Sir Alex Ferguson gave his last press conference as Manchester United manager on Friday and promised that Anders Lindegaard would feature in goal. He will replace David De Gea, who has been excellent this season. He hinted that Vidic and Ferdinand could be on the bench, meaning a central partnership for Jones and Evans. Sir Alex remarked that both players are “the future” at the heart of the United defence.
Expect Michael Carrick to pull the strings in a midfield two with Tom Cleverly, with Nani wide right and a man who isn’t retiring, Ryan Giggs on the left hand side. With Wayne Rooney’s future still in doubt, it is unlikely he will feature in the match, so we’ve opted for Danny Welbeck up top, with the Premier League’s golden boot winner – Robin van Persie, just off of him. This would be my Sir Alex Ferguson final Xi –
How would you line up?
Alas, the final game is upon on. The transfer of Robin van Persie is a distant memory, with the Dutchman making the most appearances this season for United, and of course all the eventful games over the course of the season. We also say goodbye to Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest manager there has ever been, and Paul Scholes – the most gifted centre midfielder of his generation, who will definitely hang up his boots this time around.
Ferguson’s men travel to The Hawthorns to face a WBA side that although faded in the second half of the season, should be very pleased with their overall campaign. The Baggies have beaten Liverpool (3-0) and Chelsea (2-1), but since the turn of the year have only won four matches, beating Liverpool away (to do the double), Sunderland, Swansea City and Southampton. Romelu Lukaku, who has been linked with a season long loan to West Ham for next season, has been a revelation this term scoring fourteen goals to become Albion’s top goalscorer. Shane Long trails in second place with eleven and want away striker Peter Odemwingie is in third with five goals.
Manchester United have scored 36 goals away from home this season (in the league), which works out at 1.9 goals per game away from Old Trafford. The last time United didn’t score away from home was the last time the Champions lost on their travels, going down 1-0 to Norwich City way back in November. We can talk formations, we can talk about players but – the afternoon belongs to one man alone – Sir Alex Ferguson. In his 1,500th game as manager of Manchester United, can Sir Alex win his 896th match as boss before he departs? History would suggest he probably will, and maybe, just maybe – the winner coming in Fergie time.
Prediction: WBA 1-2 Manchester United