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Dhaka Tribune

Van Persie blasts Manchester United to Premier League title

Update : 23 Apr 2013, 08:57 AM

It ended with Sir Alex Ferguson bowing to the Stretford End as the loudspeakers pumped out The Courteeners. Ferguson, at 71, is more a Josef Locke man but he will have appreciated why this was the first song to get the party going at Old Trafford. "Not 19 Forever," was its title. It has been the soundtrack to Manchester United's season and now, once again, they could call themselves the champions of England.

They had played like a side in a hurry to be reunited with the trophy. They also had a striker, Robin van Persie, playing at the point of maximum expression and it felt appropriate that the Dutchman should be so prominent on the night. He, more than anyone, has been instrumental in the title race and when he shimmers with this kind of brilliance he is probably entitled to feel aggrieved that the Professional Footballers' Association sent out its player-of-the-year voting slips during the one point of the season when he has endured a lapse of form.

Van Persie might not win the individual honours but he has certainly had the greatest impact and his first-half hat-trick, taking him to 24 league goals and leapfrogging Luis Suárez as the leading scorer in the division, was the work of an expert in his field. He was at the hub of everything, the arrowhead of attack, bristling with menace, making it feel like a trick of the imagination that it was only a few weeks ago he was snatching at chances and following up every miss with a look of self-revulsion. Van Persie has put together some portfolio in United's colours but he took his performance up another level here and the volley for his second goal, from a ball dropping over his left shoulder, was probably his outstanding work to date.

That was the moment all the worrying stopped, or what worrying there could be for a side who began the night with a 13-point lead. Wayne Rooney, playing the Paul Scholes role with distinction, sprayed a long, probing chip from just inside the United half. Van Persie was running through, looking upwards, measuring the trajectory of the ball. His shot was a peach, a combination of power and technique, all made to look so implausibly easy. His victory run was not too bad either, taking him almost the length of the pitch.

That could conceivably have been a hat-trick goal bearing in mind he had flashed a volley over a few minutes earlier. So often this season United have been accused of lacking the wow factor of old, yet there was something exhilarating about the way they set off. This was precisely the kind of football Old Trafford has craved: fast, penetrative, full of confidence. It was as devastating as anything that has been seen inside this stadium all season.

Aston Villa were obliging opponents and the 17th-placed team probably should be relieved not to suffer any more damage to their goal difference given that Wigan are three points behind with a game in hand. Paul Lambert's side have conceded 64 league goals this season, their least distinguished statistics in the Premier League era. They have conceded in every one of the past 18 matches, the longest run in the division, and their record of conceding 38 away goals is the worst in the league. A team cannot defend this abjectly, with so little structure and organisation, and hope to get away with it.

Their ordeal began just as the crowd had digested the news Rooney was operating in midfield. His brilliant cross-field pass picked out Antonio Valencia on the right. Rafael da Silva was in support, venturing forward from full-back, and the visiting defence obligingly looked on as Ryan Giggs found space at the far post to square the cross into Van Persie's path. From two yards, he could hardly miss.

At one point Giggs flicked the ball one side of his marker, Matthew Lowton, ran the other side, outsprinting a player 16 years his junior, and it was like stepping back into a different era. The Stretford End serenade Michael Carrick these days by celebrating the way he passes the ball á la Scholes. Yet these were moments when Rooney bedazzled the crowd with his vision and ability to pass long or short.

It was just a surprise the scoring stopped after that moment, on 33 minutes, when Van Persie confirmed another match-ball for his collection. Rooney and Shinji Kagawa combined in midfield and Giggs was suddenly clear on the left. Van Persie collected the cross, stepped past the goalkeeper, Brad Guzan, and had the presence of mind to delay his shot and make sure his balance was right. Another player might have rushed it but Van Persie waited and picked his spot. There were four defenders on the line, or in close proximity, and the ball flew past all of them.

Perhaps a little complacency crept in after the interval. Ferguson was aggrieved enough to come to the touchline and gesture his disapproval at one point. Patrice Evra, already booked, was fortunate the referee, Anthony Taylor, did not punish another offence and Van Persie, of all people, headed Andreas Weimann's effort off the goalline. Villa, to give them their due, did at least improve.

Even then, there were plenty of occasions when the players in the middle of the post-match victory huddle could have added more goals. Rooney wafted one effort over the crossbar before being substituted for Danny Welbeck. Kagawa did the same from a considerably easier chance but it was not long after that the "olés" started and the "20 times" flags started to flutter.

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