By Russell Stoddart
Manchester United legend Sammy McIlroy has hailed Sir Alex Ferguson’s “bold” move to splash the cash on Robin van Persie as the key to the club's record 20th league title.
The majestic Dutchman notched a first-half hat-trick against Aston Villa last night to ensure United wrapped up the title with four games to spare.
His three-goal salvo took him to 24 league strikes for the season and ahead of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, who may have played his last game of the season after biting Branislav Ivanovic.
And this might not be the last title for Van Persie this season, having been nominated for the PFA and Footballer of the Year awards.
McIlroy said: “It was fitting that United should wrap up the title up with a Van Persie hat-trick. There is no doubt that he has made the difference this season.
“Losing the title in the final minute of last season to their fierce rivals Manchester City was a real killer blow, but all credit to Sir Alex who vowed that it would never happen again.
“He knew that if Van Persie stayed fit this season then he would score the goals to bring the title back to Old Trafford.
“There were a lot of critics when Sir Alex took the bold decision to spend £25m on someone who was nearly 30 years of age and there was concern that he was putting all his eggs in one basket.
“It was really only last season that van Persie came to the fore at Arsenal as a prolific goalscorer after seasons where he suffered from more than his fair share of injuries.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that when he arrived at Old Trafford, Van Persie still had a point to prove.
“A first league championship medal and top scorer in the Premier League is vindication for Sir Alex and Van Persie.
“His second goal against Villa summed up his contribution this season. It was simply world-class and he couldn’t have picked a better stage to get it.”
Despite being on course to chalk up a record points total and a record winning points margin in the Premier League, McIlroy believes that there is more to come from a host of talented youngsters in the squad.
He added: “I know Sir Alex thinks this is the strongest squad he’s had during his 27 years at United, but I’m not so sure and there is more to come from the likes of Phil Jones, Rafael and Danny Welbeck.
“All the statistics suggest this squad is something special, but Sir Alex has probably got more out of them than even he expected, which shows his appetite and acumen isn’t diminished.
“He will already be looking ahead to next season and will have his sights on the Champions League.
“It was the one blemish this season, and now he's got the 20th title, he will be even more determined to rule Europe again.”