Manchester United win 20th league title after 3 - 0 victory over Aston Villa
Manchester United are the Premier League champions after defeating Aston Villa 3 - 0 at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie bagged a magnificent first-half hat-trick to fire Manchester United to Barclays Premier League title glory.
Long since accepted as the summer signing that made the difference, Van Persie underlined his value by ensuring there was never a chance Aston Villa might prevent their hosts from collecting the victory required to celebrate championship number 20 in front of their own fans at Old Trafford.
Van Persie took just 81 seconds to sweep home Ryan Giggs' knock-back.
Twelve minutes from the break he profited from more unselfishness from the veteran Welshman to complete the second three-timer of his United career.
In between he scored one of the best goals of the entire campaign as he followed Wayne Rooney's long ball throughout its 50-yard flight, waited for it to fall out of the sky then smashed a first-time volley into the corner.
It was the kind of jaw-dropping moment United have not delivered that often this season.
But as the signature to reclaiming the crown Manchester City prised from their grasp with virtually the last kick of the previous campaign, it was perfect.
It confirmed Sir Alex Ferguson's 13th title, and Giggs' for that matter, equalling on their own the number Arsenal have won as a club.
For Gunners old-boy Van Persie, at 29, it was number one. And boy did it show at the final whistle as he raised his arms on halfway before joining the celebrations that began almost immediately, even if the trophy presentation has to wait for three weeks.
The Dutchman's contribution took his tally for the season to 24, ahead of major rival Luis Suarez in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
Indeed, it was United as a team who got their teeth into a Villa outfit who were too loose and afforded their opponents too much room until it was far too late to create any kind of a contest.
For Villa did not just have Van Persie to look after, they also needed to subdue Wayne Rooney. And in that task, they failed miserably.
Again slotted into a central midfield station alongside Michael Carrick, tonight Rooney took control, spraying passes around in a manner befitting Paul Scholes.
The first went arrowing to the corner for Antonio Valencia to hunt down after barely a minute.
Valencia held the ball up and rolled it back to Rafael, whose deep cross found Giggs, and Van Persie did the rest.
It was part of a blistering start from the champions-elect, in which Van Persie almost scored again and nearly set up Shinji Kagawa and Rafael smashed a shot against the post from 20 yards.
Villa were simply unable to resist. On his 400th United appearance, Rooney launched a rocket from inside his own half which Van Persie's perfect technique allowed him to belt into the visitors' goal before it bounced.
In marvelling at Van Persie's contribution, it was easy to overlook Rooney's, the kind of moment that made it possible to believe he does have a future in central midfield.
Van Persie completed his second United hat-trick, and his first since the August visit to Southampton, when Giggs broke through and elected to slip a pass inside rather than go for goal himself.
If there were any lingering doubts, that effort killed them, Van Persie's touchline joke with fellow Dutchman Alexander Buttner as he made his way towards the tunnel at half-time proving the hosts felt their work was done.
It showed in their second-half display too as Villa, acutely aware of the damage to their own relegation battle a heavy defeat could inflict, gamely went hunting a consolation.
Yet even here, Van Persie was the prominent figure, heading a goalbound Andreas Weimann effort off the line.
Christian Benteke should have scored, after Rooney had gifted Villa possession close to his own penalty area, but David de Gea repelled that attempt.
United briefly roused themselves only for Rooney to fire over from 20 yards. Kagawa also failed to find the target when he only had Brad Guzan to beat after a superb first touch.
Really though, the hosts were counting down to the final whistle, as were their supporters, who spent the second half paying homage to a succession of past players who have contributed to previous successes.
Their focus switched when referee Anthony Taylor brought the evening to an end though, and Van Persie was the man they owed most thanks to.
Belfast Telegraph Digital