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May 13, 2013

Thousands help Man U celebrate

MANCHESTER, England -- In front of tens of thousands of flag-waving and chanting fans, Manchester United players and retiring manager Alex Ferguson paraded the Premier League trophy on an open-top bus through packed city streets on a second day of jubilant celebrations for the English champions.

Supporters clambered dangerously up shop fronts, scaffolding, statues, bus stands and road signs to catch glimpses of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and, of course, Ferguson as the double decker bus -- bearing a "Champions 2013" logo -- wound its way from Old Trafford to the city center.

Some lines were 30-people deep and many buildings had roof tops crammed with fans, some of them shirtless.

United players were spending a second day with the trophy after lifting it Sunday following the 2-1 win over Swansea -- Ferguson's final game at Old Trafford after nearly 27 years in charge.

"Yesterday was a day I'll never forget," said Ferguson, who waved a United flag in front of supporters before the bus departed. "All my family will never forget.

"On behalf of all my players, thanks for all your support."

Rio Ferdinand conducted the chants among the players, who jumped up and down on the top deck under overcast skies. A vast police escort led the bus along the streets, with a helicopter above.

"It feels absolutely amazing ... it's been worth the wait," said Van Persie, the striker and top scorer who won the title in his first season with United and was serenaded by teammates. "I've had to wait quite a long time."

Despite recently having a transfer request rejected by United, Rooney was present, although he received a mixed reception from fans outside Old Trafford.

Ferguson's last game in charge is on Sunday against West Bromwich Albion and it promises to be a week-long celebration in honor of Britain's most successful manager, who has won 38 trophies for United since joining the club in 1986.

The Scot issued a challenge to his replacement, David Moyes, saying: "The big test is to win it three times in a row as they've done before, so I hope they can do that."

And perhaps in one last dig at old rival Liverpool, he added: "Tomorrow night our under-21s play Liverpool -- that mob across the road."

The city center had been awash in red for hours, with fans draped in United flags blaring hooters and car drivers honking their horns. Scarf- and flag-sellers did a roaring trade on the Deansgate thoroughfare where the bus made its way down.

The celebrations started early for Ferdinand, who posted a picture on Twitter of him and some teammates sitting in the corner of a local pub. Ferdinand had also been partying on Sunday night, tweeting at 3 a.m. on Monday: "Just rolling in the front door! Decent night out celebrating that was!"

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