The authorities can tie red ribbons on the Premier League trophy as Manchester United swept aside relegation-threatened Aston Villa 3-0 to take an insurmountable 16-point lead at the top of the league table.
After eight months of consistent and industrious on-field performances, the Red Devils have finally brought home the coveted and historic 20th domestic title by virtue of their 27th win of the season and also regain ‘Manchester supremacy’.
Here are the five key moments from United's 2012-13 championship win.
|Robin van Persie's arrival|
Last summer, Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to shell out a whooping sum of £24million for Robin van Persie, a player nearing his thirties and in the last year of his contract at Arsenal, left many bemused.
However, as we enter the final stretch of the Dutchman’s debut season at Old Trafford, the once inflated signing appears to be more of a bargain buy.
Van Persie has scored 24 times for United in the league this term and the 29-year-old’s hat-trick against Aston Villa officially clinched the Red Devils’ latest piece of silverware.
Rejecting Manchester City’s mind-blogging wages, van Persie has been the talisman of the United squad, often bringing back memories of the great Eric Cantona. While wearing the same jersey number as United’s domestic titles now, the Netherlands international is the prime reason why Fergie’s troops have an unassailable cushion over their “Noisy Neighbours”.
|Victory at the Etihad Stadium
Arguably the most scintillating and pivotal win that United registered en-route to their 20th Premier League crown came when they defeated Manchester City 3-2 at the Etihad last year.
City had fought back from 2-0 down to level terms, before United won a free-kick just outside the hosts’ penalty area in the extra time. Van Persie unleashed the subsequent dead-ball and then came the defining moment of the game.
Samir Nasri, co-incidentally a former United transfer target who opted for the blue side of Manchester, instead of putting his body on the line for the team and defend the free-kick from the wall, dodged it and cowered behind Edin Dzeko.
The ball sailed past Joe Hart after taking a slight deflection from Nasri’s outstretched leg, steering United five points clear at the top. As Roberto Mancini fittingly described in his post-match presser, the wall consisted of "two-and a-half men".
|Kompany's injury leaves City's defense in tatters
Last season, Vincent Kompany was rock-solid at the heart of the Manchester City defence. This time around however, a recurring calf injury against Stoke City in late January meant that City had to make do without their skipper for the subsequent six important domestic games.
Even though Mancini had decent back-ups in the form of Joleon Lescott, Kolo Toure and Javi Garcia, with the latter being deployed as a makeshift centre-back, none could provide the same defensive solidity as Kompany.
By the time the Belgium international returned to full-fitness, City had dropped ten points in the six gameweeks without Kompany and the title race was practically over.
|Everton Crush City's hopes
Although United were already running away with the Premier League crown, City’s defeat at the Goodison Park in March ended their tiniest hopes of catching the Red Devils.
Leon Osman gave the Toffees an early lead, but the Citizens were handed a valuable lifeline when Steven Pienaar was sent off just around the hour mark. However, Mancini’s men failed to break down Everton’s organized defensive structure and unluckily, had a penalty appeal wrongly dismissed after Marouane Fellaini had stuck up an arm to block Carlos Tevez’s late drive inside the box.
Nonetheless, Nikica Jelavic wrapped up the game for Everton with an excellent counter-attack in the 93rd minute and when United defeated Reading few hours later, the gap at the top had widened to 15 points.
|Veterans buckle up!
After a lacklustre start to the season during which they were heavily criticized by the football pundits for underperforming, the veterans of the United team eventually formed the backbone of the club’s successful title challenge.
Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, particularly, developed the foundation for United’s ever-improving defensive record in the second-half of the season. Nemanja Vidic came back in the latter half of the season to put in top performances alongside Jonny Evans.
On the other hand, Ryan Giggs, even despite getting relatively limited playing time provided an aura of experience and guidance to the team, while his performances have been fairly impressive over the past eight months. He made up for Paul Scholes absence in the middle who was out of action due to injury.
The right mix between the experienced lot and the upcoming youngsters is the key for any winning team and without doubt, Ferguson surely managed to achieve this objective.
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