Rooney clinches Man United's record 19th title
An achievement 25 years in the making, Alex Ferguson's Manchester United finally became the most successful team in English league history on Saturday with a 19th title triumph that overhauled Liverpool's record.
With only a point required at Blackburn to capture the Premier League trophy with a game to spare, Wayne Rooney salvaged a 1-1 draw from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute.
''It's very good, a long day ... it was agony at times there,'' Ferguson said. ''It was a disappointing game to be honest but I'm not particularly bothered by that ... the important thing is being the most successful.''
Fulfilling it would have seemed unimaginable when Ferguson took charge of United in 1986 with a vow to knock Liverpool ''off their perch.''
Liverpool had just stretched its lead over United to 16-7 in the title stakes and by 1990 the Anfield outfit had raised the bar to 18.
But United kept its faith in Ferguson and in 1993 he ended the club's 26-year wait for another league crown.
Eleven more have followed since then, and in that time Liverpool has failed to top the standings once.
''Hopefully, we will keep it going for a long time,'' Ferguson said. ''It's a great achievement.''
Even at 69 after winning his 27th major title at United, Ferguson has no plans to retire. And neither has 37-year-old midfielder Ryan Giggs, who has played in each of United's 12 Premier League-winning teams since 1993.
''Twenty years ago we were nowhere near Liverpool,'' Giggs said. ''It's a good feeling to be ahead of our greatest rivals.''
Manchester City has been a less formidable rival, but the big-spending team ended its 35-year title drought by beating Stoke in the FA Cup final two hours after United's landmark success.
''With the FA Cup, we have won it more times than everyone,'' Ferguson reminded City, which has won it just five times to United's 11. ''And now we have won the Premier League more times than anyone.''
But Saturday's match at Ewood Park went against the script, with Ferguson's decision to rest goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar backfiring in the 20th minute.
Tomasz Kuszczak, who had struggled to deal with a backpass minutes earlier on his first appearance in a month, chased Brett Emerton's cross from the right.
Instead of pushing the ball away, he kept it in play and the ball fell Martin Olsson, who played a one-two with Junior Hoilett before crossing to Emerton to sweep ball home from a central position.
''We lost a cheap goal and they were encouraged by that,'' Ferguson said.
United's breakthrough came after a moment of controversy, when striker Javier Hernandez was tripped in the area by goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
Blackburn's players felt Hernandez went down too lightly, and the penalty was only awarded by referee Phil Dowd after he consulted his assistant amid protests from both teams.
Rooney kept his cool to score his 15th goal of the season - and the one that ensured Liverpol's record would be surpassed.
''I was terrified, the ref took a long time to give it,'' Rooney said. ''I had to compose myself. I'd been practicing all week.''
For the England forward, who grew up supporting Liverpool's local rival Everton, the goal is payback for the lucrative new contract was awarded in October after he rocked United by threatening to leave.
''After the year I've had, with the ups and downs, this is for the fans and the team,'' Rooney said.
But the manner of United's title-deciding point was in keeping with a lackluster season all round for the top teams.United is the first side to win the league with only five away wins since Liverpool in 1976-77.
''The away form has been disappointing,'' Ferguson said. ''Normally our away form is much, much better but we are protected by the home form.''
United now has an unassailable lead over second-place Chelsea, which is seven points behind with two games to play.
United overcame Chelsea's late resurgence thanks to its imperious form at Old Trafford where it has dropped points just once this season - a home draw against West Bromwich Albion.
''We're champions and in the Champions League - we're rubbish aren't we?'' Giggs said ironically.
Ending the season with both the Premier League trophy and European Cup would prove the doubters wrong if United can overcome Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on May 28.
The local authority in Manchester announced Saturday that a victory parade will take place on Monday, May 30 to coincide with the bank holiday.
''Breaking the record of league title wins is a big day in the club's illustrious history,'' United chief executive David Gill said.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarrisUK