22:58 19th May 2013
Baggies boss praises his history makers after stunning comeback against champions
STEVE Clarke hailed his history makers after they pulled off a sensational 5-5 draw with champions Manchester United after twice being three goals down.
It was the first-ever Barclays Premier League ten-goal stalemate and proved a stirring end to Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game as United boss.
The Baggies found themselves 2-0 down after just nine minutes following Shinji Kagawa’s opener and Jonas Olsson’s own goal.
Alexander Buttner added a third on 28 before James Morrison gave the hosts a lifeline five minutes before the break.
Half-time substitute Romelu Lukaku made it 3-2 five minutes into the second but the Red Devils looked to be coasting to victory when Robin van Persie netted in the 53rd minute and Javier Hernandez made it 5-2 ten minutes later.
But it was Lukaku who stole the headlines as he completed his first professional hat-trick with goals either side of Youssouf Mulumbu’s second strike of the campaign to pinch a point.
“It was an incredible game,” said Clarke, whose men finished the season in eighth place on 49 points – both Barclays Premier League club records.
“It must have been fantastic to watch.
“It’s not a game you can analyse – it’s a game you just sit back and enjoy.
“It was fantastic entertainment.
“We had a great plan and after ten minutes it was out of the window.
“Then from there we were hanging on.
“Manchester United showed why they are champions.
“I thought they were absolutely irresistible.
“We couldn’t live with them.
“They went 2-0 up, 3-0 up, and it looked as though it was going to be a really long afternoon for us.
“But, as I’ve said a number of times, this group of players know how to get results in this league and the fourth goal was crucial.
“To make it 3-1 before the break gave us something to get our teeth into at half-time.
“Then I could make some changes and I decided we couldn’t cope with them defensively so it was better to have a go.
“We went a little bit more offensive and had a go.
“We got it back to 3-2 and then they put their foot down again to pull away.
“It was 5-2 but we did what we do, we dug in, we got the next goal, and made it 5-3.
“From there we chased the game really well, we created a lot of chances and it made 5-5.
“And for a little spell at the end I thought we were going to nick it, which would have been even more incredible.”
The Hawthorns chief also revealed Ferguson complemented Albion on their season as the 71-year-old Scot watched one of his teams throw away a winning position from three goals up for the first time in an astonishing managerial career spanning almost 38 years.
“He said it was a great game,” added Clarke, who shared the customary glass of red wine with the United boss after the match.
“He complemented us on the way we played.
“I think for Sir Alex it’s a great occasion and great finale.
“He’ll remember that game.
“I think anybody who was here in the stadium will remember that game for years to come.
“I think that’s a good tribute.
“He told me after that it’s the first time any team he’s been involved with has thrown away a three-goal lead – and they did it twice in the game.
“That’s something for us to savour.
“Sir Alex is what he is.
“He’s a great guy, who always speaks well.
“He was quite complimentary about our season as a club, which was nice of him, and I wished him all the best on his retirement.
“He’s gone out as a champion and he deserves his retirement.”