Scholes leads United past and present in Fergie salute

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Paul Scholes led the tributes to Alex Ferguson from Manchester United players past and present as the veteran Scottish manager bid farewell to his adoring Old Trafford public on Sunday.

The English champions' 2-1 Premier League win over Swansea gave Ferguson a victory in his final home game before retirement after 26 years in charge.

Sunday's fixture also marked long-serving United midfielder Scholes's final home match before he too retired.

The one-club man, a member of the celebrated 'Fergie fledglings', came through the Old Trafford youth system revitalised by Ferguson and into the United first team.

"Today it was just nice to get through the game. I thought Sir Alex handled it well," former England midfielder Scholes said. "He has done a fantastic job here. I know it's the right time for me to go," the 38-year-old added.

"It's not been the season I would have liked personally, but we've won the league and it's a great day."

Ryan Giggs, who made his United debut in 1991 and has become synonymous with the club's success in winning 38 trophies under Ferguson, said his most vivid recollections of the manager were some of his oldest too.

"The memories of him that stick out are when I was younger. When I was 13 playing for Salford Boys and looking to the sidelines and there was Alex Ferguson watching." While Giggs has known Ferguson since he was a teenager, for Robin van Persie this term was a new experience following the Dutch striker's pre-season transfer from Premier League rivals Arsenal.

"From my point of view, I think it's a massive honour for me to have been involved with him," said van Persie, Ferguson's last major signing.

"One year is not a lot but it was an unbelievable year and such an impact."

"He is a great manager but an even greater person. The way he is, the way he handles his players, the way he is in general as a person, is unbelievable."

Ferguson, typically, looked to the future when in his post-match address to a crowd of over 75,000, he urged fans to give new boss David Moyes, the current Everton manager, as much support as they had him.

"That's the thing that resonated most for me," said former United captain Gary Neville. "He was still warning the players who were standing in front of him - don't let the club down, remember the shirt you're wearing.

"The fact he is throwing it forward, remembering what he has done but saying that it's important for the fans to get behind the new manager.

"This club can't stand still, like it did when Matt Busby left this club. This was an angry crowd for 25 years but this isn't the crowd I grew up with in the 70's and 80's. Liverpool dominated for 25 years and that can't happen again."

United beat Swansea thanks to a late goal from Rio Ferdinand, his first in over five years for the club, and a fitting contribution from a player who has starred for Ferguson for over a decade.

"The man's desire to win football matches and bring success to the football club, he deserves to win his final game," said England centre-half Ferdinand who is out of contract at the end of the season.

"It would be nice (to get a new contract), I will speak to the board and, hopefully, the new manager and, hopefully, he (Ferguson) will put in a good word for me.

"He (Ferguson) has had so many years here, this is his second home...But this club is a great club and we have to move on, he wants that."

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