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Rediff.com  » Sports » Nistelrooy wins Golden Boot

Nistelrooy wins Golden Boot

May 12, 2003 12:20 IST
Champions Manchester United paraded their hard-won trophy, Arsenal limbered up for the FA Cup final and West Ham United made a dignified exit when the curtain fell on a thrilling premier league season on Sunday.

United crowned a magnificent unbeaten run since Boxing Day with a 2-1 win over Everton at Goodison Park -- their 15th in 18 games -- shattering their hosts' UEFA Cup hopes.

As if to ram home their superiority over former champions Arsenal, Ruud van Nistelrooy converted United's match-winning penalty to take the Golden Boot with 25 goals, one more than last season's winner, Highbury favourite Thierry Henry.

United had already won their 15th league title the previous weekend. But manager Alex Ferguson still found plenty to savour as he reflected on a season that had looked set to vindicate Arsenal's claim a year ago of a power shift in English football.

"It's a great day for Manchester United, there's no doubt about that and you can't deny our form's been fantastic," Ferguson told his club's official website.

"Don't believe all the stories that have come from south of the Birmingham divide. We proved ourselves as champions."

Ferguson, whose team had finished trophyless and third in the table last season, also sent his rivals an early warning.

"Next year, we'll be really enthusiastic and everyone will be looking forward to it," he said.

"I think we'll enjoy our summer better this year."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, whose team will defend their FA Cup trophy on Saturday against Southampton, finished off with the kind of goal glut they had so badly needed last month.

LEAD EVAPORATED

While their lead over United evaporated in April with three draws, Freddie Ljungberg became the third Arsenal player to score a hat-trick in the space of five days -- helping to secure a 4-0 win at Sunderland after Robert Pires and Jermaine Pennant had struck in their 6-1 midweek win over Southampton.

However, even a Cup final victory would still make it a disappointing season for the red and white side of north London -- denied an unprecedented double Double by United and a place in the Champions League quarter-finals by Valencia.

Outside the two clubs who have dominated English football for the past five years, Newcastle United and Chelsea are now just two matches away from a place in the lucrative group phase of the Champions League.

While Newcastle could afford to relax on Sunday, Chelsea made sure of their place in the Champions League qualifying competition with a 2-1 victory over rivals Liverpool.

"Everybody knows that the club needs a little money," said Chelsea's Italian coach Claudio Ranieri, who needs to hold on to his best players during the close season if they are to make the most of their Champions League chance.

Liverpool will have to settle for the UEFA Cup, their League Cup final win over Manchester United being their season's only lasting achievement after being top of the table in November.

Blackburn Rovers return to the UEFA Cup for the second consecutive season, at the expense of an Everton side who at one stage looked like Champions League candidates.

Even the Merseysiders' 17-year-old England striker Wayne Rooney, the undoubted revelation of the 2002-2003 season, could not prevent Sunday's costly defeat at Goodison Park.

At the wrong end of the table, the final day witnessed the survival of Bolton Wanderers, while West Ham United joined West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland in the drop to the first division.

'We'll be back', read the banner of a defiant Hammers fan at St Andrews, where his team drew 2-2 with Birmingham City while Bolton beat Middlesbrough 2-1 to stay up.

Arsenal supporters, as they prepare for another battle with United in three months' time, probably share that sentiment.

Source:
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