Van Persie treble fires United to title
Robin van Persie bagged a magnificent first-half hat-trick to fire Manchester United to Barclays Premier League title glory with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
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 81 seconds to sweep home Ryan Giggs' knock-back. Twelve minutes from the break he profited from more unselfishness from Giggs to complete the second three-timer of his United career. In between he scored one of his best goals as he followed Wayne Rooney's long ball, waited for it to drop then smashed a first-time volley into the corner.
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. But 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 central midfield alongside Michael Carrick, 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. Van Persie completed his second United hat-trick when Giggs broke through and elected to slip a pass inside rather than go for goal himself.
The visitors, acutely aware of the damage to their own relegation battle a heavy defeat could inflict, gamely went hunting a consolation in the second half. Yet even here, Van Persie was the prominent figure, heading a goalbound Andreas Weimann effort off the line. Christian Benteke should have scored 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. 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.