By Michael Walker
PUBLISHED: 16:40 EST, 13 May 2012 | UPDATED: 16:40 EST, 13 May 2012
So cruel: Rooney shows his frustration
When Sir Alex Ferguson came up with
one his most famous remarks - 'Football, bloody hell,' - it was in the
brilliant, crazy aftermath of Manchester United's epic European Cup
triumph over Bayern Munich in Barcelona.
Thirteen years on, Ferguson looked as if those words were going through his head once again on Sunday.
Same words, different meaning. It was 13 seconds after the final whistle.
Once referee Howard Webb blew,
Ferguson moved across to shake the hand of Martin O'Neill, then marched
on to the Stadium of Light pitch.
that moment, the title was on hold. The atmosphere inside the ground
was heavy, uncertain, quiet, not unlike a hospital waiting room.
The scene had a slow motion feel to it.
Ferguson had just heard of Edin Dzeko's equaliser at Eastlands but in those few seconds Manchester United were champions of England for the 20th time.
In a room at the stadium a Premier League trophy was being prepared with red ribbons.
could not see that, which was a small mercy for him. He was on the
grass with United's players who thought were about to hear good news.
Crying shame: Patrice Evra weeps as the title that seemed to be theirs was snatched away
Ferguson ushered them towards the travelling United fans who were hanging in that same waiting room themselves.
And then, up in the south-west corner, adjacent to the visiting support, a noise erupted from Sunderland fans.
Ferguson's antennae picked it up instantly. There was no hesitation on his part, no thinking this could be a hoax.
Ferguson knows football, knows it can bring pain as well as pleasure. He was in Barcelona. QPR had not been able to match Aberdeen against Real Madrid.
Football, bloody hell.
United won, they lost, they had it, then they didn't.
Down to earth: Antonio Valencia can't believe the title slipped away
As Ferguson turned for the tunnel, Sunderland fans were already doing The Poznan.
Mockery comes quick.
So, too, from Ferguson, did 'congratulations to our neighbours'.
His response was magnanimous.
'We congratulate Manchester City. Anyone who wins the league deserves to win it because it's a very, very difficult league to win. We know that because, as we've experienced today, we've lost on goal difference.'
Mockery: Sunderland fans celebrate a goal by Manchester City by doing a Poznan
Eight goals over 10 months, a difference as slim as an upright. United understand its dimensions, having struck the woodwork three times on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney hit the crossbar in the first half and a post in the second. He scored the decisive goal, his 27th in the Premier League this season, his best league tally by one.
As he boarded the team bus afterwards in club-issue black suit, Rooney's face gave no hint of happiness at that fact.
'We're all disappointed, obviously,' Ferguson had added. 'We should be disappointed because we did our best today. But for their goalkeeper, we could have scored seven goals. We hit the post, the bar and the goalkeeper made fantastic saves throughout the match. We conducted ourselves in the right way.
'Yes, there will be a time when we can sit back and say we did this wrong, we did that wrong, but 89 points would have won the league most seasons.
Magnanimous in defeat: In any other year Sir Alex Ferguson knows United would have won the title
'They're a good bunch of lads. The younger players will remember today because sometimes a bad experience is even better for you.'
Ferguson was correct about that points total. United won their historic 19th title last season with 80 points. They scored fewer goals then, and conceded more.
United improved by nine points; City improved by 18.
Ferguson said there were no recriminations but the sight of Nemanja Vidic in the directors' box was a reminder of what United have missed since December 7.
Vidic played in neither league derby against City, he was not there when Everton scored two late goals of their own three Sundays ago.
Vidic was injured in Basle when United exited the Champions League. If the league offers one measurement of a team, then so does Europe. United were deservedly beaten by Basle and then by Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League.
Ferguson will address that in due course.
Signing off: Signage for the potential trophy presentation had to be shelved
There was some consolation in pushing the league to the last kick of the last day but ultimately Old Trafford has its first trophy-less season since 2004-05. That was Rooney's first season at the club, Roy Keane's last full one.
After United had gone out of the Champions League at AC Milan, Ferguson had spoken inside the San Siro of renewal, of the youth of Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
On Sunday he talked of a clutch of young players - Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, David De Gea among others – and said they could be at United for 'five, six, seven, 10 years.
'The experience is good for them even if it's a bad one.'
Learning process: Jonny Evans (right) is among a crop of exciting United youngsters
On Friday the 70 year-old had warned City: 'We're not going away and I'm not either.'
Here he addressed City again: 'They can go on as much as they like but the history of our club stands us aside. We don't need to worry about that. I think we have a rich history, better than anyone and it'll take them a century to get to our level of history.
'But for us, it's still a challenge and we're good at challenges. We'll kick on from here.'
That process may have started - there were shades of Spanish pressing when Sunderland had the ball.
Then United had the home team on the carousel in the second half. They were controlling possession, counting down the seconds and shaping their future.
But back in Manchester, City were stealing United's late, late trademark. Or, as Ferguson would say, borrowing it.
Headlines Newsview all
One of the richest towns in Britain also has the highest number of people having extramarital affairs, according to new research. Wealthy Maidenhead tops a new ... Full story
A trainee teacher hanged himself on New Year’s Eve after a split from his girlfriend, an inquest heard today. Keiran Walsh, 22, split from his partner ... Full story
Late on a dark and rainy night, it is all go-go-go down at White Dee’s house in Birmingham. There is a pan of fish stew ... Full story
Rate this article
MOST POPULAR ON CAPITALBAY
- Cheating map of UK reveals Maidenhead to be Britain's most adulterous town
- Trainee teacher hangs himself after split from the girlfriend he couldn’t live without
- Lacey Wildd has had 30 enhancement surgeries and is planning more
John McCain, who was tortured for five years while held captive at the 'Hanoi Hilton,' says two-hour execution of Arizona killer was 'torture'
Double murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3.49pm, an hour and 57 minutes after his execution began on WednesdayMcCain says the nearly two-hour ...
Attack of the killer bees: Swarm of Africanized honey bees sting man 1,000 times and chase his co-workers when they tried to come to his rescue
By Jessica Jerreat Published: 03:00 GMT, 25 July 2014 | Updated: 03:01 GMT, 25 July 2014 ...
Family of Dan Murphy's employee who died after diving into a shallow river during the work Christmas party, has lost its payout bid
Jukes Campbell was at a Christmas party organised by her work when she dived into a shallow section of the Noosa RiverThe Sunshine Coast mother ...
Amateurish, eccentric and so very British: Was the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony a turning point in the tone and direction of the great Scottish independence debate, asks ROBERT HARDMAN
By Robert Hardman Published: 00:34 GMT, 25 July 2014 | Updated: 02:51 GMT, 25 July 2014 ...
Police are investigating the discovery of 11 dolls left on doorsteps in San ClementeThe dolls resemble the little girls who live in the homesThe motivation ...
Waning demand for Hennessy cognac and Louis Vuitton handbags saw first-half profits at LVMH fall 5 per cent to €2.58bn (£3.47bn). Sales at the Paris-based ...
Balfour Beatty and Carillion are in merger talks that could create a £3bn blue-chip construction giant. The companies behind the London Olympics Aquatics Centre and ...
The growth outlook for the UK economy has once again been upgraded significantly by the International Monetary Fund. In its latest World Economic Outlook, released yesterday, ...
Barclays has squared up for a fight with the New York Attorney General, filing a motion to dismiss his accusation that the bank misled clients ...
Westminster Outlook What’s the point of a reshuffle if you promote MPs to the wrong roles? Penny Mordaunt is not just an expert in belly-flopping ...