fergie delivers

MANCHESTER - Manchester United won a third title in a row Saturday with a 0-0 draw against Arsenal that produced the point required to clinch its record-equaling 18th championship.

MANCHESTER - Manchester United won a third title in a row Saturday with a 0-0 draw against Arsenal that produced the point required to clinch its record-equaling 18th championship.

When Alex Ferguson took over at Old Trafford in 1986 he declared he wanted to knock the then dominant Liverpool "off their perch," and his side has now matched its northwest rival's title record.

"That was the target because they were the greatest side in the land," Ferguson said. "But I never thought we could get 11 titles - never in a million years." The 67-year-old Scot said he had no plans to retire anytime soon.

"It makes you want to go on for ever," Ferguson said.

Ryan Giggs has been part of United's team for each of its 11 Premier League triumphs masterminded by Ferguson since the 1992-3 season.

"It's been a special time at the club since the manager took over and we've managed to win so much," Giggs said. "Hopefully we can carry on."

Giggs won't have long to wait for another medal. The Welshman can win a third European Cup - and deliver Ferguson's 26th major trophy with United - in the May 27 final against Barcelona.

The draw put United out of reach of second-place Liverpool, which is seven points behind and has two games to play.

"It was the longest 90 minutes in history," Ferguson said. "There was only one save in the match - it was a cautious match."

Despite a lacklustre game, the final whistle set off a massive title celebration at Old Trafford as the team was presented with the Premier League trophy on the field.

The trophy was carried onto the pitch by four soldiers who had just returned from duty in Afghanistan.

And as the medals were presented and fireworks exploded, the rain that had lashed onto the pitch throughout the match cleared and Old Trafford was bathed in sunshine.

The title is Gary Neville's eighth and the 34-year-old captain immediately set his sights on next year.

"(Liverpool) pushed us really hard this season. Next season, we've got our work cut out to go and do it again," the defender said.

While powered this season by goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and top-quality performances from strikers Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, United also had a rock solid defence which led to goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar setting a British record by going 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal.

United had a wobble in March losing to Liverpool and Fulham.

The post-match focus was also on the players who might be leaving Old Trafford in the off season, most notably Tevez and Ronaldo.

When Tevez, whose two-year loan deal is about to expire, was substituted in the second half he applauded the fans and seemed to wave goodbye.

Asked if he was leaving the club, the Argentina striker said in broken English: "Maybe goodbye... It's very difficult."

Later fans, who have persistently chanted for Ferguson to sign Tevez up, staged a protest outside the directors' entrance.

As for Ronaldo, the world player of the year was noncommittal when asked whether he was still eager to move on.

"The supporters screaming and singing your name it's amazing but the future you never know," he said.

- Sapa-AP

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