MANCHESTER, England — As red-and-white ticker tape flew into the rainy sky at Old Trafford, a beaming Alex Ferguson hoisted up the Premier League trophy for a 13th and final time.
Behind Britain’s most successful football manager stood his jubilant squad of players, dancing to a soundtrack of “Champions, Champions” being belted out by more than 76,000 fans.
It was the end of an era at Manchester United on Sunday as Ferguson took charge of his final home match of a club he has led for nearly 27 years. And he had a 38th piece of major silverware to celebrate it with.
There were no tears from Ferguson — although he came close at times during an emotional five-minute speech to the crowd. Instead, just pure happiness and satisfaction. The smile never left his face.
“You have been the most fantastic experience of my life,” Ferguson said. “Thank you.
“My retirement doesn’t mean the end of my life with the club. I will be able to enjoy watching them rather than suffering with them.”
Sunday’s game against Swansea was more a party, a tribute to Ferguson’s achievements, than a football match. The final score was 2-1 to United, but that barely registered.
From the moment he emerged from the tunnel before kickoff to a guard of honor from both teams, to the moment he took the microphone and addressed his adoring supporters for one final time, this was one long celebration.
Old Trafford has never seen such emotions, such warmth, such an explosion of elation.
“I just want to say thank you once again from all the Ferguson family,” he said, pointing to his wife Cathy and grandkids. “Thank you. Thank you.”
Ferguson stunned the world by announcing Wednesday that he would be bringing his managerial career to a close at the end of the season. And he finally gave the reasons behind his decision, which he said he made at Christmas.