Sir Alex Ferguson may well have celebrated his latest Premier League crown with greater fervour than any of the previous 10. Manchester United's third successive top-flight triumph allowed them to equal Liverpool's record of 18 English league successes as they held off the late challenge of the Anfield outfit, with a 0-0 home draw against Arsenal giving them the point they required to cross the finishing line. The North West neighbours' intense rivalry has developed over many decades, but it is one which has become increasingly bitter in recent times due to Rafa Benitez and Ferguson's growing personal feud. The Spaniard's pointed refusal to congratulate his managerial counterpart will have done little to ease tensions between the two, although Benitez was prepared to say a somewhat grudging 'well done' to the club. Second place - Liverpool's best finish under Benitez - was effectively assured with Sunday's 2-0 success at West Brom, as defeat for the hosts left their dreams of a second Great Escape in tatters. Sequels often never live up to the original. The red mist also descended in comical fashion at the Hawthorns as Jamie Carragher squared up to team-mate Alvaro Arbeloa in the second half, who he felt was not doing enough to help protect Pepe Reina's bid for the Golden Glove award. Relegation dogfightMiddlesbrough look destined to be joining the Baggies in the Championship next season as their 1-1 home draw against Aston Villa on Saturday left them needing a final day victory at West Ham and for other results to go in their favour. Boro boss Gareth Southgate insists he wants to remain at the helm even if the club are relegated, but the response from large sections of the Riverside fans at the final whistle suggests they are not of the same mind. Fading Villa, who are assured of a place in Europe next season but have slipped from fifth behind Everton, will have much more to say on the relegation dogfight as Newcastle travel to the Midlands on the last day of the season. Tyneside survival hopes, which were raised following their derby victory over Boro last Monday, were brought crashing down again by their home defeat to high-flying Fulham, who delivered what could prove to be a fatal sucker-punch at St James' Park. Diomansy Kamara's goal on the break before half-time rendered all of Newcastle's possession and pressure pointless before referee Howard Webb ruled out Mark Viduka's header after pushing from Kevin Nolan and Sebastien Bassong saw red to leave the Toon Army in full retreat. Roy Hodgson deserves huge praise for transforming the Cottagers from relegation battlers last term into a side who are now the favourites to secure seventh place and a berth in next season's new-look Europa League. Hull City scrambled back out of the drop zone courtesy of their 1-1 draw at Bolton, but thought they had taken all three points, only to see Jussi Jaaskelainen produce a world-class save to deny Daniel Cousin late in the game. The Tigers now welcome champions United to the KC Stadium on the final day, hoping that the Red Devils will have more than one eye on their forthcoming UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona the following week. Curtain callGuus Hiddink took his curtain call at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea brushed aside a Blackburn Rovers side riddled with injuries thanks to goals from Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka, who heads the Golden Boot race alongside Cristiano Ronaldo with 18. The Dutchman has been taken to the hearts of everyone associated with the Blues but he will step down at the end of the season hoping for a final flourish in the FA Cup against Everton on 30th May. David Moyes' side will not be travelling to Wembley merely to make up the numbers and Everton climbed to fifth in the table courtesy of Saturday's 3-1 home success over West Ham, where Louis Saha again demonstrated that, when fit, he is a striker to be feared. The Hammers, who had taken an early lead through a spectacular Radoslav Kovac effort, were undone by the dismissal of James Tomkins before the break and saw their own European hopes evaporate in defeat. Manchester City, despite their millions, are another side who can put away their passports for another season as Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Tottenham ended any hopes of continental competition for the Eastlands outfit. What impact that will have on Mark Hughes' future and the club's fanciful transfer plans remains to be seen, with Spurs - revitalised under Harry Redknapp - the only club who can overhaul Fulham in seventh. Stoke City, written off by all and sundry before the season kicked off, can finish the campaign in the top half after their 2-0 home success over Wigan lifted them to the dizzy heights of 11th in the table. James Beattie, arguably the finest signing of the January transfer window, was on target once again with his seventh goal in 15 games as a bouncing Britannia Stadium celebrated in style having seen their top-flight status assured last weekend.
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