United clinch landmark 18th English title

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LONDON, May 17 – Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated wrapping up Manchester United's third straight Premier League title with a pledge to come back and do it all again next season.RONALDO_CHAMPAGNEA goalless draw at home to Arsenal left United with an unassailable lead at the top of the table and ensured they equalled Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles on a day that saw Middlesbrough and Newcastle lurch to the brink of relegation.

"It was the longest 90 minutes in history but we got there," Ferguson said after an edgy display by his side sealed the 11th title of his Old Trafford reign.

"There’s not been one save in the match and that tells you how cautious a match it was."

Asked what it meant to match Liverpool’s mark of 18 titles, Ferguson replied: "It will make it more special if we get in front of them. We want to progress with this team, which is capable of doing it. It is a young team and next year we are going to go for it again."

United’s triumph was the result of a consistency that Liverpool – who paid the price for drawing seven matches at home – Chelsea and Arsenal proved unable to match.

Although Ferguson’s men ultimately claimed the title with a match to spare, their only success in six league matches against the three other top four teams was a 3-0 win over Chelsea in January and they were beaten in both league battles with Liverpool.

United’s focus now turns to the Champions League final against Barcelona in Rome on May 27 and that will mean big names being rested for United’s final league fixture at Hull, in which the home side will be playing for their survival in the top flight.

A 1-1 draw at Bolton on Saturday lifted Phil Brown’s side above Newcastle and out of the bottom three.

After watching Craig Fagan equalise after Gretar Steinsson had given Bolton the lead, Brown said: "It’s back in our hands having to face the champions and there will be suggestions about weakened sides but nobody does you any favours in the Premier League."

Newcastle, who travel to Aston Villa for their final match, slipped back into the relegation zone after a 1-0 home defeat by Fulham that was shrouded in controversy over a disallowed Mark Viduka strike.

Newcastle boss Alan Shearer described himself as "bitterly disappointed" over what he felt should have been an equaliser from Viduka, whose effort was disallowed because Kevin Nolan was adjudged to have fouled Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Diomansy Kamara’s first-half strike kept Fulham in seventh place, the final qualifying spot for European football, and Newcastle’s chances of salvaging something evaporated after Sebastien Bassong was sent off midway through the second period for a professional foul on Kamara.

Shearer added: "It’s out of our hands. We have got to better Hull next weekend. Whatever they do, we have got to better them. But it’s not over. I am sure there are going to be twists and turns next Sunday afternoon."

Tuncay Sanli gave Middlesbrough fans hope they could yet beat the drop with an overhead kick after 14 minutes only for John Carew’s second half strike to earn Villa a point that leaves Boro three points behind Hull and with four goals to make up in terms of goal difference.

Everton leapfrogged Villa into fifth place after a 3-1 win over ten-man West Ham, who had James Tomkins sent off for the foul on Tim Cahill that enabled Louis Saha to cancel out Radoslav Kovac’s early long-range strike with a 38th-minute penalty.

Joseph Yobo’s first goal of the season and Saha’s second completed a comfortable win that ends West Ham’s hopes of European football.

Second-half goals from Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie allowed Stoke to celebrate the last home match of their first season back in the top flight with a 2-0 win over Wigan.

Tottenham kept their hopes of a Europa League place next season alive with a 2-1 win over Manchester City. A Robbie Keane penalty four minutes from time gave Spurs the win after City’s Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov had cancelled out Jermain Defoe’s 29th-minute effort.

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