Manchester United have clinched the Premier League title after cruising to a 3-0 win against Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
United looked comfortable throughout the routine win, their 15th victory from 17 home games this season. Robin van Persie fired home a first-half hat-trick, effectively securing a win by half-time.
Just two minutes had passed at a packed Old Trafford when a superb crossfield pass from Wayne Rooney found Antonio Valencia on the right. A deep cross from the winger found Ryan Giggs at the far post, and the Welshman’s squared pass set Robin van Persie up for the simplest of tap-ins.
If the first goal was elementary for the Dutchman, the second (pictured above) showcased his quality. Rooney was again involved, delivering an inch-perfect pass from the center circle. As the ball dropped over van Persie’s right shoulder, the striker connected with a perfect left-foot volley, leaving Villa ‘keeper Brad Guzan with no chance.
With Manchester United 2-0 up after 13 minutes, Villa were on the ropes. Further goals felt inevitable, and van Persie completed his hat-trick after 33 minutes. Shinji Kagawa released Giggs down the left and the Welshman picked out Robin van Persie in the six-yard box for another simple finish.
The second half saw United relax, with the game often slowing to a pedestrian pace. They will have had few easier home games this season.
The result leaves Manchester United 16 points clear of rivals Manchester City. With only five games left for City to play, that means the Premier League title will return to United. It is United’s 20th championship in all, a total that sees them pull further ahead of Liverpool, who have won 18 titles.
Speaking after the game to BBC Sport, van Persie said:
“It doesn’t matter who scored, as long as we won the game. From the first minute, everyone played well and it was great to score so early and a great win for us. I am very happy but it is weird. I had to wait so long for my first title. It is a great feeling. It is a fantastic team and fantastic players. It is a championship for every single one of them. The staff, the managers, the physios.”
Wayne Rooney, who had a fine game from central midfield, added:
“We won this game in the first half and it is a fantastic night for us. When you lose the title, it is hard to take. It wasn’t a nice feeling last time. We have all dug in deep and done fantastic to put ourselves in this position.”
The title is manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s 49th trophy for Manchester United and, incredibly, his 13th Premier League title with the club. He told reporters:
“[The second] was goal of the century for me from Robin van Persie. It was marvellous – the technique with his head down, over the ball and just perfect timing. It was a magnificent strike. He has been unbelievable, his early form was fantastic. He had a dry spell, as most strikers do, but he has come back from that and he was unbelievable tonight.””
Rival players and clubs also sent their congratulations to the new champions:
Congrats to Man United on winning the title
— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) April 22, 2013
Congratulations to Manchester United on winning the Barclays Premier League title for 2012-13
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) April 22, 2013
Congratulations to Manchester United on winning the Premier league title, the best team so far this season. well done
— fabrice muamba (@fmuamba) April 22, 2013
Monday night’s result leaves Aston Villa hovering just above the relegation zone, three points ahead of Wigan Athletic. Villa and Wigan meet on the final day of the season for what could be a fight to stay up.