Sunday, July 3

April 22 2013: The day Man Utd last sealed a Premier League title

The 2011/12 season could hardly have gone worse for Manchester United. Well, for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United anyway.

The Red Devils crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage before they were totally outclassed by Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Club in the Europa League. They were thrashed 6-1 at Old Trafford by Manchester City. Their rivals over at the Etihad Stadium pipped them to the Premier League title with the very last kick of the season.

It was the year from hell, but a ‘little boy’ and his dream meant that United’s 2012/13 season wasn’t going to be the nightmare of the year prior.

Reigning PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year Robin van Persie forced a move from Arsenal to Man Utd, spurning the advances of Man City in the process in one of the Premier League’s great ‘sliding doors’ moments. The Dutchman proclaimed that the ‘little boy inside’ was screaming for him to ditch the Emirates Stadium for Old Trafford.

It wasn’t the happiest of starts though, as David Moyes’ Everton beat Ferguson’s men 1-0 on the opening weekend (this led to the famous ‘hello Phillip, hello Gary’ moment between the Neville brothers on Sky Sports).

But from there, Man Utd led for much of the season. Back-to-back 3-2 wins over Fulham and Southampton – the latter of which was inspired by a late Van Persie hat-trick – kicked their campaign into gear and they rarely looked back.

Across town, Man City were desperately struggling to defend their title. An inconsistent winter and spring culminated in a late 3-1 collapse at Tottenham, meaning that United went into their fixture at home to Aston Villa on April 22 with the chance to clinch their 20th league title.

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Listen now to 90min’s brand new podcast, Talking Transfers, with Scott Saunders & Graeme BaileyToby Cudworth joins the show this week to discuss contract situations at West Ham, while there are updates on Man City’s pursuit of Erling Haaland and Chelsea’s plans for Romelu Lukaku.

The season had been about Van Persie and it was only fitting that this famous match was about Van Persie. United’s number 20 opened the scoring after two minutes with a simple tap-in from three yards out, but his second will live long in club folklore.

Wayne Rooney – often playing second-fiddle to Van Persie for much of the season – set the Dutchman racing away with a quarterback pass, and his first-time strike looped through the air at searing pace and past the helpless Brad Guzan.

Another close-range strike saw Van Persie secure his hat-trick just after the half-hour mark, and the red side of Manchester partied long into the night knowing that Ferguson’s last season at the helm was going to end in glory.


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