MANCHESTER – Manchester United wrapped up a 20th league title in convincing style after Robin van Persie’s first-half hat-trick sank Aston Villa today.
The Dutch striker has been United’s stellar striker for much of the season before labouring of late after two goals in his previous seven Premier League appearances.
But the 24m summer signing returned to form in spectacular fashion to secure the silverware with four games to spare.
Defeat for Manchester City at Tottenham on Sunday†meant that United knew before kick-off that victory would be enough for them to cross the line.
Despite an improved second-half showing by Villa, now three points above the relegation zone with four games remaining, that outcome never seriously looked in doubt.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has now won the Premier League 13 times but the manner and margin of this triumph, a year after seeing the title wrenched from his grasp with the last kick of the season, should give him as much satisfaction as his first success.
His side were already 13 points clear before kick-off, and there was an air of expectation bordering on euphoria at Old Trafford.
If there were any nerves too, they went out of the window when Van Persie opened the scoring after 83 seconds.
A move started by Wayne Rooney ended with Ryan Giggs knocking Antonio Valencia’s cross into the path of the Dutchman, who converted from two yards out.
Villa had just started to gain a foothold in the match, with Christian Benteke firing just over after a quick break, when United struck again in devastating fashion after 13 minutes.
This time it was the home side on the counter-attack, and Rooney’s searching ball found Van Persie running to meet it on the edge of the area to smash an unstoppable volley past Brad Guzan.
Giggs then ran on to Shinji Kagawa’s pass and had a chance to let fly himself, but instead set up Van Persie, who steadied himself before firing high into the roof of the net. (BBC)††