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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Manchester United: The five games that won United the title

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Manchester United clinched their 20th title in style by beating Aston Villa 3-0 thanks to a superb Robin van Persie hat-trick. The £24m summer signing from Arsenal presented Sir Alex Ferguson with his 13th Premier League with four games to spare.

Here are the five games that were pivotal in United reclaiming the title from their rivals City.

Southampton 2 Manchester United 3 - September 2, 2012

Having lost on the opening day of the season at Everton, Manchester United were playing catch up from the off. When they went to St Mary's United found themselves a goal down after just 16 minutes. Rickie Lambert headed the Saints in front before van Persie equalised just seven minutes later. However, Nigel Adkins' men, who lost a five-goal thriller against Man City on the opening day, fought back and regained the lead through Morgan Schneiderlin. 

In the 67th minute van Persie was fouled in the box and dusted himself off to take the spot kick. Unfortunately the flying Dutchman made a mess of the penalty. However, the former Arsenal star was to go on and complete his first hat-trick for the Red Devils. He looked to have rescued a point for the visitors with a late goal before breaking Southampton hearts with a superb near post header.

Click here to see highlights of the game

Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3 - October 28, 2012

United were on a mission at home and aboard. By the time they rolled up at Stamford Bridge at the end of October Fergie's men had won 10 of their last 11 outings. Win number 11 looked like being a formality at Chelsea as the visitors raced into a 2-0 lead. Chelsea pulled one back just before half-time through Juan Mata and United's resolve was going to be put to the test. We had a real game on our hands eight minutes into the second half when Ramires levelled and the Bridge was rocking. But then the game was changed by two red cards for Chelsea. Bratislav Ivanovic and Fernanro Torres were both given their marching orders. Few could have any complaints about Ivanovic's red card for fouling Ashley Young, but there was uproar when five minutes later Torres was sent off for diving.

Manchester United turned the screw on nine-man Chelsea and Javier Hernandez grabbed the winner with 16 minutes to play.

Click here to see highlights of the game

Aston Villa 2 Manchester United 3 - November 10, 2012

What is it about United and five-goal thrillers away from home? United did it the hard way as well at Villa Park, coming back from two goals down. Andreas Weimann had put the hosts ahead just before half-time and sent the struggling Villans into raptures with a second five minutes after the re-start. But United never know when they are beaten and piled the pressure on the home side. Javier Hernandes came on at half-time and changed the complexion of the game in the 58th minute. The Mexican bore down on goal before megging the onrushing Brad Guzan. And he levelled proceedings just moments later by volleying a cross back towards goal which hit Ron Vlaar and into the back of the net.

Van Persie then rattled the bar before his deft free-kick into the box found Hernandez in space and headed the ball past Guzan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Click here to see highlights of the game

Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3 - December 9, 2012

Manchester United entered the Etihad as Premier League leaders and ended the game six points clear at the top. Wayne Rooney silenced the champions with two goals inside 30 minutes but it was Robin van Persie, who chose United ahead of City in the summer, who won the game.

Rooney put United ahead in the 16th minute with a strike from the edge of the box that left his England colleague Joe Hart rooted to the spot. He then doubled their lead as he ghosted into the box to dispatch Rafael's cross. Rooney should have completed his hat-trick and put City to bed just before the hour mark. RVP hit the upright with a curling shot. The ball came back into play and Rooney slotted the ball home. However, the referee's assistant adjudged Rooney offside. That changed the game. 

Moments later City stormed forward and Tevez and Silva both could have scored before Yaya Toure finally beat De Gea. We finally had a game on our hands. Pablo Zabaletta, who has arguably been City's best player this season, looked to have rescued a point for the champions when the ball broke for him in the box following a corner and he lashed the ball past De Gea.

It looked as though the honours were going to be shared until Tevez brought down Rafael in RVP territory. The Dutchman lined up the free-kick with his trustee left foot. It was heading goalbound but took a crucial nick off the cowering Samir Nasri giving Hart no chance and the leaders all three points.

Click here to see highlights of the game

Manchester United 4 Newcastle United 3 - December 26, 2012

Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams, was a venue of nightmares for Alan Pardew's Newcastle United on Boxing Day. When you score three away from home you expect to leave with all three points. Unfortunately for the Geordies they couldn't even register a point.

Newcastle opened the scoring after just four minutes through James Perch, who capitalised on David De Gea's parried shot from Papiss Cisse. Jonny Evans got the hosts back on level terms in the 25th minute, but the visitors went ahead again when Evans controversially put through his own net. With Papiss Cisse in an offside position, Danny Simpson took a shot at goal, but the ball hit Evans - who was tangling with Cisse at the time - and went into the back of the net. Fergie was livid!

United went in at the break 2-1 down but Patrice Evra got the Red Devils back on level terms in the 58th minute. The Frenchman's drilled strike from 20 yards was just too strong for Tim Krul to keep out. United were in the ascendancy and everyone was waiting for them to finish the game off, but Newcastle stunned them again with former United man Gabriel Obertan setting up Papiss Cisse to rifle the ball past De Gea and put the visitors ahead for a third time with only 21 minutes to go.

Two minutes later the hosts were back on level terms when Robin van Persie scored his 16th goal of the campaign which set up a grandstand finish. Javier Hernandes, who came to the rescue against Chelsea and Aston Villa previously, then rattled the woodwork with a header before leaving Newcastle United feeling deflated when he latched on to a superb ball into the box by Michael Carrick and all he had to do was beat Krul. 

It was a cruel blow for the visitors but a massive boost for Sir Alex's hopes of winning the title. From that day on, United never looked like losing the title.

Click here to see highlights of the game

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