In a game ever so fitting to culminate Sir Alex Ferguson's career, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion split the points in a 5-5 thriller. Javier Hernandez put United up three goals with 27 minutes to play, but sloppy defending allowed Romelu Lukaku and Youssouf Mulumbu to level the game.
With United already having clinched the title on April 22 with a 3-0 win vs. Aston Villa and WBA sitting comfortably in eighth place, this game had just about no meaning in terms of points implications.
However, despite the fact that United couldn't earn three points, this game served as a tribute to the attacking brand of football that Sir Alex's squads have played for the last 26 years. Even with the playing of stalwarts Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, Fergie made sure to give United fans a glimpse of the club's future in using an obviously experimental lineup.
Among the squad's six changes was the appearance of Jonny Evans and Alexander Buttner in the starting lineup, with Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic watching comfortably from the bench.
Though there were some bright spots such as Buttner's second goal of the season, the inexperienced back line was given major problems by the WBA counter-attack and allowed 20 year-old Romelu Lukaku to tally a second-half hat-trick.
With their title already in the bag, it was expected that Ferguson would give his young guns a chance to fire, but he was knowingly taking the risk of allowing defensive lapses, such as the ones that occurred.
All in all, Sir Alex will be a little disappointed not to have won the match but probably won't lose sleep knowing he didn't have his best squad out on the Hawthorns pitch.
West Brom, on the other hand, will be delighted to have earned a point after trailing by three goals twice in the game. While they may not be in the upper echelons of the EPL just yet, their eighth-place finish is their highest since their re-entry into to the top flight in 2010-2011 (per statto.com).
Considering their last-place finish in 2008-2009, this game, this season and the last three years of (at least) top-11 finishes have marked an impressive ascent from one of the lowliest clubs in the EPL.
Another ascent worth watching has been that of 20-year-old Belgian wonderkid Romelu Lukaku, who capped off an impressive season at the Midlands with three goals in the second period of the match. After dethroning Peter Odemwingie as the club's top scorer and showing his dominance today vs. United, West Brom will certainly increase their attempts to keep their starlet attacker. He is rumored to be wanted back by parent club Chelsea (Daily Mail) or possibly loaned to ninth-place neighbor Swansea (Daily Mirror).
In the end, this game, with its wild finish and 10 goals, represented the parity of the the EPL.
It represented the fighting spirit of a middle-tier club facing champions.
And lastly, it represented the end of a magical 26-year tenure, filled with an abundance of goals and stunning offensive play.
Goodbye, Sir Alex.
(All stats and info via ESPN FC)
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