Manchester United won their 20th league title in style as Robin van Persie scored a sensational first-half hat-trick in a 3-0 victory over troubled Aston Villa.
Pre-match talk was of potential complacency ruining Monday night’s coronation party at Old Trafford, given Sir Alex Ferguson’s men knew they only needed three points against their relegation-threatened opponents.
But PFA Player of the Year nominee Van Persie inspired a blistering opening, scoring the first after just 90 seconds before adding a contender for goal of the season and netting his third shortly after the half-hour.
Paul Lambert’s 17th-placed Villa could have relegated Queens Park Rangers and Reading with a win but they had no answer to United and remain just three points above Wigan Athletic, now with a worse goal difference having played a game more.
But the story was all about United and Van Persie, whose £24million arrival last summer from Arsenal is widely considered to be the main factor in Ferguson’s new champions having regained the Premier League crown as early as April from rivals Manchester City.
Van Persie was accused of fatigue after a two-month goalless spell for his club between February and April but the Dutchman has now scored five times in his last three matches and his first against Villa came with just one-and-a-half minutes on the clock.
From Rafael’s deep cross, Welsh veteran Ryan Giggs pulled the ball back across goal to record his first Premier League assist of the season as Van Persie made no mistake when finishing past Brad Guzan.
Just over 10 minutes later, Van Persie made it 2-0 with a breath-taking, first-time volley courtesy of a stunning, long pass from Wayne Rooney, who amid a supposedly out-of-form season has scored or created 22 goals in 25 Premier League appearances.
Villa were looked punch-drunk and, in the 33rd minute, Van Persie completed his hat-trick with a goal which saw him overtake Liverpool’s controversy-engulfed striker, Luis Suarez, as the Premier League’s top scorer on 24 goals when finishing from close range.
Lambert sent on Karim El Ahmadi at half-time in place of Charles N’Zogbia in an attempt to improve Villa and it had some impact as Andreas Weimann headed at goal only to be denied on the line by that man, Van Persie.
But the second half was, in truth, a procession for United as they claimed the title with ease while Van Persie can look ahead to competing with Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale for the Player of the Year award.