Elated Fergie offers big Sam 'two big kisses'

April 28, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson offered to give Sam Allardyce 'two big kisses' after Manchester United were left on the brink of the Barclays Premiership title.

Ferguson's boys had producing a stunning comeback at Goodison Park to score four goals in the last half hour after slipping two behind to a vibrant Everton.

While United were making their miracle recovery, nearest rivals Chelsea were being held 2-2 at Stamford Bridge, a result that leaves the Old Trafford side five points clear at the top.

If United win at Manchester City, of all places, next weekend and Chelsea fail to match that result at the Emirates against Arsenal, the title will be secured - Ferguson's ninth Premier League crown.

Ferguson had seen Wayne Rooney produce a man-of-the-match performance against the striker's former club, scoring one and making one, and the United chief said: 'I will be giving my old mate Big Sam a hug and a kiss when I see him, maybe two kisses.'

Bolton's result was the icing on the cake for Ferguson and United, who had looked down and out with Everton two ahead. First, Alan Stubbs blasted home a free-kick and then Manuel Fernandes scored a sensational second.

But United were gifted a lifeline when rookie goalkeeper Iain Turner dropped a corner to allow John O'Shea to score, before Phil Neville stabbed in an own goal.

The former United man is now Everton's skipper, and you sense he will never be allowed to forget the moment he tipped the title balance towards his old club.

From then on, there was only going to be one winner. Rooney finished superbly to grab the third, before setting up Chris Eagles for an injury-time fourth.

Ferguson was overjoyed, saying: 'I feel the momentum is back with us, particularly with Chelsea drawing. We have a five-point lead and a superior goal difference, giving us a marvellous chance with three games left.

'But the most important thing is that my lads are having a real go. If you do that, and with the finishers we have in our side, we are always likely to score. That is a smashing attitude to have at this stage of the season.

'This result is very significant. We are now away to Manchester City next Saturday lunchtime, having been to Milan for the semi-final, and we know what that can do to players. It is very difficult.

'Then we have Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, so we cannot count our chickens yet.

'But I do think the marvellous attitude of our players and the spirit they show is going to keep helping us.

Ferguson added: 'The game is hard to explain. With what was going on elsewhere, our lead at one stage was down to goal difference, and Everton were leading with two great strikes.

'But in football that can happen. Their first one was a bit fortunate to take a deflection past Edwin [van der Sar], and their second was an incredible strike.

'At that point, we were toying with bringing on [Cristiano] Ronaldo - he was carrying an injury. We felt that if we did score we would then bring him on.

'And we got the break when the young keeper dropped the ball, and John O'Shea put it away. At that point, I felt we had a chance.

'Bringing on Ronaldo, their focus would be on him. But there would be [Ryan] Giggs, [Paul] Scholes, [Michael] Carrick, Rooney all to worry about. I felt it was meant to happen.'

For Everton, chasing a UEFA Cup spot, the second-half turnaround was hard to take for boss David Moyes, who claimed the match turned on the howler by Scotland Under-21 cap Turner, recalled from a loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday and put into the side ahead of former England keeper Richard Wright.

Moyes said: 'We are gutted after being two up. We gave United a great opportunity to get back into the game.

'Not only did it hurt us, it gave them a massive lift at a period when we were comfortable. Playing against a very good side, we did a decent job.

'The keeper's error was a big turning point in the game. If we had lost to United with their style and attacking ability, which is fantastic, I'd have said, okay.

'But we gave them two goals. If United had opened us up and scored brilliant goals, the way they can, I'd be the first to say it is hard to stop that.

'But we could certainly have done something to have stopped those goals. The first one certainly, and the second. We let the goal come across the box for their third and the fourth one could have been avoided by kicking the ball up the park, not giving it to them.

'For me, the goals were poor all round. I'm disappointed we made it easy for United in the end, they got a slice of luck but it was down to that first goal.

'I do not think they would have got back into the game had it not been for that first goal.'