James Lawton: Giggs goal cues manager's familiar dance of delight

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The Independent Football

He itched, all through the thunder and the lightning and the lashing rain and the gathering tension, to make his dance. You know the one well enough. It is the football equivalent of the life-enhancing celebrations of Zorba, the one he produced most emotionally at the Nou Camp on the occasion of his first Champions League title.

But first Sir Alex Ferguson had to have a sign, the mark of a champion, and when it arrived in the 80th minute, and with it the certainty of his 10th Premiership title, we were back in Barcelona.

We could forget Zorba. It was the most exuberant, if least impeccably choreographed singing in the rain, since the prime of Gene Kelly and no doubt part of the reason was that Ferguson's team had finally shown a touch of the class and the hauteur he had been willing them to produce right up to the moment of deliverance.

Indeed, his beseeching from the soggy technical area was much the same as it had been through most of the finishing stretch of a season that may well end now in a stunning climax in Moscow in nine days time.

With the threat of Wigan, who had been plainly whipped into a combative frame of mind by their manager and former United warrior Steve Bruce, still alive despite a first-half penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo, the United manager was looking increasingly strained on the touchline.

Plainly he craved the boldness of thought and perfect execution on which he has fashioned the most extraordinary managerial record in the history of English football.

Title number 10, in the end, came from the combination of a cornerstone of one European title-winning team, Ryan Giggs, and the young man who on the evidence of this match is most likely to be the decisive factor in the collision with Chelsea beside the Moscow River.

Wayne Rooney was rushed into the game presumably because Ferguson couldn't bear the idea of a title slipping away for the lack of a presence talented and strong-minded enough to seize a decisive moment. Having gained the somewhat dubious penalty, Rooney justified utterly his selection with the pass that left the Wigan defence finally gaping.

With Ferguson urging his players to take hold of the game and develop some-time killing rhythm, Rooney did better than that. He gathered in the ball and wielded it as though it was a rapier. His pass to the feet of Giggs in wide open space in front of goal was the invitation to strike for home. Giggs did it with the aplomb he has brought to so much of United's football over nearly two decades and then Wigan, naturally, retired for their more modest celebrations for winning another high-earning year in the Premier League.

For United a different kind of glory; the glory has been the lifeblood of the watching Sir Bobby Charlton, who fought so hard in the Old Trafford boardroom for the appointment of Ferguson, the man for whom winning long ago acquired the properties of oxygen.

There are so many places to return to at moments of United success, so many names to honour, and yesterday it was the turn of the son of Roger Byrne, the captain of the Busby Babes who died in Munich.

Roger Byrne Junior made the presentation on behalf of a father who had led the team with a maverick authority that was, frankly, in rather short supply at vital moments of yesterday's trial by expectation. When Wigan's hugely athletic, and impressively skilled midfielder from Honduras, Wilson Palacios, and his Ecuadorian team-mate Antonio Valencia, ran at United they seemed to create space and panic in almost equal measure.

Scholes, a vital factor on the ball, and much missed in that department when he was replaced by Owen Hargreaves in the second half, was nothing like so assured when facing the pace and control of Palacios, particularly, and in the end he was lucky to escape a second yellow card for an especially blatant foul on Valencia.

1United held on because in the end they produced at least a little of the best of themselves, something which on this day was needed to take them beyond the commendable industry of Carlos Tevez and the rather less engaging of Ronaldo's theatrics.

Rooney's bite at a critical moment, Giggs' easy assurance on the ball, perhaps made Ferguson's dance as much about the immediate future as the climactic moment. Maybe it was a signal for him that Rooney, buffeted by injury and becalmed at some crucial moments this season, was about to reclaim some of his highest destiny.

This, of course, is to influence the most important games of any season. It is, after all the requirement, of the man who set off dancing in the rain.

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