Tue, May 06, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Arsenal surrenders title to Man Utd

CHAMPIONS The Red Devils won their eighth Premier League title in 11 years after the defending champions Arsenal lost to Leeds 3-2 at Highbury in London, Sunday

AP , LONDON

A file photo of Manchester United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, celebrating an eighth English Premier League season win at Old Trafford. Manchester United were crowned 2003 Premier League winners when Arsenal lost to Leeds United at Highbury on Sunday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson has won yet another Premier League title, but the trophy he really craves is still out of his grasp.

And he's determined to win his second Champions Cup.

Manchester United won its eighth Premier League title in 11 years Sunday after defending champion Arsenal made another late-season stumble.

Arsenal's 3-2 loss to Leeds sent the title back to Old Trafford. United, which didn't play Sunday, has an unassailable eight-point lead over the Gunners with one week remaining in the season.

Even in celebrating, Ferguson's eye was on Europe.

"Now we have to get the big one again," Ferguson said. "Winning it twice is not enough.

"We are not far away, believe me. Everyone was excited by the Real Madrid adventure. We want it again. It has become as important as anything you can think of in football."

Ferguson has been in charge of United since 1986 and was set to retire at the end of last season after 16 years in charge. But in February 2002, the Scot did a U-turn and signed on for another three years -- the desire for another Champions Cup trophy still strong.

United won the Champions Cup in 1968 and 1999. Last season, Ferguson wanted to win it in his hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, but United was eliminated in the semifinals by Bayer Leverkusen.

This year, the final is at Old Trafford. But United was outclassed by Real Madrid in the quarterfinals in a thrilling two-leg tie with Real Madrid last month.

Dominating Europe is the next step for a club that has dominated domestically.

The Red Devils won the first Premier League title in 1993. The only clubs to have taken the title off them are Blackburn (1995) and Arsenal (1998, 2002).

Arsenal had been attempting to be the first team to successfully defend the league and FA Cup. It plays Southampton in the final on May 17.

The misfiring Gunners had an eight-point lead over United two months ago with a game in hand, but have since struggled for consistency. In the last 10 matches before Sunday's loss, the Gunners had won four games, drawn four and lost one.

Meanwhile, United closed the gap and overtook Arsenal by peaking late in the season. It last lost a league game on Dec. 26 -- and in the 17 games since, has only drawn twice, including a 2-2 tie against Arsenal on April 16.

``We went on a fantastic run. You can't deny teams in that spell,'' Ferguson said. ``Four years ago we stuttered and Arsenal won the title. You can never be sure in this league.''

It also had top goalscorer Ruud van Nistelrooy in strong form. The Dutchman has scored in United's nine previous league matches and Saturday scored his third hat trick this season in a 4-1 win over Charlton.

This season he's scored 43 goals for United, 24 of them in the league. Since he joined United from PSV Eindhoven in 2001, Van Nistelrooy has scored 79 times in the 100 appearances.

"It's unbelievable that we've won it," Van Nistelrooy said of his first title.

"We've all worked so hard and it's a great feeling, especially after the bad position we were in. The way we won was unbelievable."

Last season, Arsenal took the title off United at Old Trafford. But Ferguson was confident Manchester United would prevail and prevent another trophy-less season.

"I never doubt Manchester United," he said. "I know their capabilities."

Manchester United chief executive Peter Kenyon said the win vindicated Ferguson's decision not to retire.

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