Manchester United's Robin van Persie, right, scores his third goal past Aston Villa's goalkeeper Brad Guzan, centre, during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Monday April 22, 2013 (Photo: AP)
Manchester United won their 20th league title on Monday when a Robin van Persie hat-trick led them to 3-0 victory over Aston Villa and gave them an unassailable 16-point lead over last season's Premier League champions Manchester City.
Van Persie's goals after two, 13 and 33 minutes - the second among the best scored at Old Trafford - propelled Alex Ferguson's side to victory in front of a jubilant home crowd.
It is the 13th Premier League title for both the club and Ferguson, who has now won 49 club trophies in his managerial career.
United, who will surpass the record of 95 points set by Chelsea in 2004-05 if they win their four remaining games, have 84 points with City, who have a game in hand, on 68.
After the hurt of having their crown snatched away by Manchester City on goal difference in stoppage time on the final day of the 2011-12 season, United were determined to make sure of the title with four games to spare.
In front of an Old Trafford crowd in celebratory mood, United got off to a dream start with less than 90 seconds on the clock after a move started by a delightful long pass from Wayne Rooney.
His diagonal ball from his own half found Antonio Valencia on the right wing and the Ecuadorian passed to Rafael who crossed to Ryan Giggs with the 39-year-old pulling the ball back for Van Persie to tap in with ease.
The Dutchman could have scored a second a minute later when he volleyed just over, while Rafael hit the post before Van Persie produced a candidate for goal of the season to double their lead in the 13th minute.
Another superb pass from deep by Rooney from the halfway line set up Van Persie for an exquisite left-foot volley from just outside the box that flew into the net.
His third, on 33 minutes, again involved Giggs who was fed by Shinji Kagawa before finding Van Persie in the box. The Dutchman had time to shift the ball on to his left foot before sending it in off the post for his 24th league goal of the season.
Villa, desperate for damage limitation in their relegation battle, did a better job of containing United in the second half and Van Persie was called on to demonstrate his worth at the other end of the field with a headed clearance off the line.
Kagawa missed a chance to give United a fourth, inexplicably firing high and wide, but that will be forgotten as the party gets into full swing.
While the celebrations are likely to carry on into the night, United's players will not get their hands on the trophy for another three weeks as it will not be presented until their final home match of the season against Swansea City on May 12.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)