Tuesday 24 December 2013
A Robin van Persie hat-trick wrapped up Manchester United's 13th Barclays Premier League title and 20th top-flight championship as they beat Aston Villa 3-0 on a momentous night at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side had long been in the ascendancy, having opened up a 15-point gap over second-placed Manchester City at the end of March, and top goalscorer Robin van Persie sealed the league title on 22 April with a hat-trick, including a spectacular volley from outside of the area that was named the goal of the season. Barclays Player of the Month Van Persie latched on to a 60-yard pass from Wayne Rooney and, with the ball dropping over his shoulder, fired it past Brad Guzan.
Their only blip in the penultimate month of the campaign came against local rivals Manchester City, who ensured bragging rights over their neighbours with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford. Sergio Aguero won the match with an excellent solo goal for City, who also progressed to the FA Cup final with a semi-final victory over Chelsea.
City looked set to finish second in the league but Chelsea moved up to third with a 10-point haul from four matches in April, and interim manager Rafael Benitez won Barclays Manager of the Month for his efforts.
Victories over Fulham, Sunderland and Swansea City put Chelsea a point ahead of Arsenal, who had played a match more, and three points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, ensuring that the battle for UEFA Champions League qualification would go down to the wire between the three London sides.
Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool team produced one of the most eye-catching results of the month, as they put six goals past struggling Newcastle United at St James' Park. Daniel Sturridge, replacing suspended striker Luis Suarez, scored twice and continued to impress since his January arrival.
At the bottom of the table, Reading and Queens Park Rangers were relegated from the Premier League after playing out a goalless draw at the Madejski Stadium. Both sides needed a victory but neither side could prevail, ensuring newly promoted Reading returned to the Championship and QPR went down after two seasons in the top flight.
QPR had narrowly missed out on much-needed points against Fulham, who beat them 3-2 at Craven Cottage with Dimitar Berbatov scoring twice, and against Wigan Athletic, who earned a 1-1 draw with an excellent Shaun Maloney free-kick deep into injury time. QPR had taken the lead through Loic Remy, whose strike was a contender for goal of the season: a first-time strike into the far corner with the inside of his right foot.
Wigan, who would meet Man City in the FA Cup final after victory over Millwall in the semi-finals at Wembley, were five points behind 17th-placed Newcastle with a game in hand over their relegation rivals. Aston Villa moved out of the drop zone at Wigan's expense after a resurgent run of form, which was capped by a 6-1 rout of Sunderland in which Christian Benteke scored a hat-trick. Paul Lambert's side gained seven points during the month.
The 6-0 defeat by Villa brought to an end a memorable start to his tenure as Sunderland head coach for Paolo Di Canio. The Italian oversaw two wins in his first three matches, including an emphatic 3-0 success over Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby. Di Canio endeared himself to the Sunderland fans with his animated reactions on the touchline, sliding on his knees after a goal, sprinting down the touchline and celebrating with his players. A home victory over Everton after the local derby gave Sunderland breathing space above the drop zone.
As the month drew to a close, Tottenham midfielder Gareth Bale was rewarded for his remarkable run of form in the 2012/13 Premier League season with the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. The 23-year-old became only the third player to win both awards in the same year, replicating Andy Gray (1977) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007). The Wales international had scored 19 goals in 29 league appearances up to this point in the 2012/13 campaign.
In April the first promoted side for the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League campaign was confirmed, as Cardiff City secured automatic promotion, and later the Championship title, with a goalless draw against Charlton Athletic.
Cardiff, managed by Malky Mackay, will play in the Barclays Premier League for the first time and will become the second Welsh team in the top flight after Swansea City's promotion in 2011. Mackay's side secured their passage to the top flight with three matches remaining, and had been top of the Championship table since 24 November.
“At the end of the day, our consistency for the last 20 years has been unbelievable. [Van Persie’s second] was the goal of the century, for me, a marvellous hit. He has been unbelievable. His form in the first six months was fantastic. Tonight, he was unbelievable, marvellous."
(Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hails hat-trick hero Robin van Persie as Man Utd seal their 13th Barclays Premier League title with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa)
“When you lose it in the manner that we did last year it's always special to win it back. We did it in style. We had a lot of injures early on in the season, the centre-half position especially and once we got that sorted we looked solid. I'm enjoying it. As long as I'm enjoying it I'll carry on. It's nights like this that drive you on”
(Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs doesn't have any thoughts of retiring as he and Manchester United win the Barclays Premier League again)
“They were warriors. You can't be more proud than this. They did everything, they gave everything, they left all of their energy on the field. It was a fair result at 3-0, so I am very happy for them because they really suffered during the game. It was hard because we knew that we had a team in front of us with fantastic ability and quality.”
(Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio hails his players after the 3-0 derby victory over Newcastle United)
"When you look at the list there are some massive names on it and the other nominees have been unbelievable this year, but I couldn't have done it without the team. They have been fantastic this year and so has the manager. I couldn't have won it without them so I would like to give them all a big thank you as well."
(Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Gareth Bale after winning the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards)
“You probably won't be able to re-create this or get better than this, so I wanted to soak it up and enjoy every second of it. We're going to be in the Premier League. What this is going to do next year to the club, to the city, it's just going to be phenomenal. It's just immense."
(Cardiff City winger Craig Bellamy after he helped his hometown team seal promotion to the Barclays Premier League in April)
For April's results at a glance, click here