A 33-minute first-half hat-trick from Robin Van Persie, the man signed by Sir Alex Ferguson eight months ago with the sole intention of wrestling back the Premier League title, ensured that Manchester United did just that with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
The celebrations began after just two minutes – Van Persie tapping home a Ryan Giggs cross, before a goal of the season contender from the Dutchman doubled the lead ten minutes later. He completed his hat-trick on 33 minutes, collecting another Giggs cross before calmly finding the top corner.
Aston Villa, fighting for their own Premier League trophy – that crucial 17th position and survival for another season – were simply blown away as United wrapped up their 20th top-flight league title and their 13th in the Premier League.
Van Persie was everything Ferguson signed him to be – clinical, aggressive, technically superior, passionate, possessed by the same desperate will to win that’s driven Ferguson to so many titles before.
Their connection and mutual appreciation was plainly evident in Van Persie’s celebration against Stoke last week. Van Persie grateful for the opportunity to join the club, Ferguson grateful for the opportunity to welcome him. They are both Premier League winners now.
The Dutchman even made a goal-line clearance in the second half to preserve the clean sheet. The performance was without blemish. It was perfect.
A special mention must be reserved for Wayne Rooney. With all the hagiography of Van Persie, Manchester United’s number 10 has been marginalised. He’s been withdrawn, not just from the position he occupied as Old Trafford’s main man following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, but actually physically withdrawn on the pitch, back into a deeper midfield role.
But he remains a truly outstanding player, his pass for Van Persie’s brilliant second a beautifully arrowed arc from inside his own half, landing with a dull thump onto the Dutchman’s sweet spot.
Against West Ham he was substituted with Ferguson still looking for a way back into the game. It must have been difficult to take. Here his number was up again, but this time was greeted by a chorus of appreciation from the Old Trafford faithful.
Kagawa too was impressive, and he will only improve. Similarly Phil Jones was commanding against an imposing opponent in Christian Benteke.
Paul Lambert’s side had frozen horribly in the first-half, offering up a performance reminiscent of their mauling at the hands of Tottenham and Chelsea earlier this season.
In the second, United’s intensity dropped, and Villa carved out a few half chances. But this trip will not have been earmarked as a must-win - and Villa now have four games to preserve their status.
Ferguson made a £24m bet on Van Persie and it’s never looked like anything other than a masterstroke. Talk of a Manchester United vintage is misplaced – this team is no patch on the 1999 treble winners, or even the 2008 Champions League victors. But it is clearly the best this season.
Find a partner for Michael Carrick and it could be even better.
Before the match there was an air of expectation – such confidence can often be dangerous. But expectation quickly became celebration..
All the hard work was done in the first-half, all of the fun work by Van Persie. His reward is that coveted Premier League winners medal and a guard of honour at the Emirates Stadium.
Manchester United’s number 20 – signed to win Manchester United’s number 20. Job done.
Manchester United 3
Van Persie 3 (2mins, 13mins, 33mins)
Aston Villa 0
Man of the match: Robin Van Persie (Manchester United)