Robin van Persie scored a first-half hat-trick as Manchester United won a record-breaking 20th league title in style with a commanding 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
The Dutchman slotted home from two yards inside two minutes before latching on to Wayne Rooney’s 50-yard pass to score one of the goals of the season with a stunning volley from outside the area.
The hat-trick was completed after just 33 minutes with a neat finish from six yards after more fine work from Ryan Giggs.
Jonny Evans and Phil Jones were preferred in central defence, while Giggs partnered Michael Carrick in the centre of the pitch in just two changes from the side who drew 2-2 with West Ham.
Paul Lambert made just one alteration, as Gabriel Agbonlahor shook off a groin injury to demote Jordan Bowery back to the substitutes’ bench.
With the mood jovial among the home support inside Old Trafford ahead of kick-off, the hosts wasted no time in upping the ante as Giggs knocked Rafael’s looping right-wing delivery across goal for Van Persie to hand United a vital lead after just 83 seconds.
Sir Alex’s side were relentless in the opening stages. Van Persie skimmed the top of the goal a mere minute after notching his first before Ron Vlaar blocked a near-certain Shinji Kagawa goal from inside the six-yard box and Rafael struck the post with a low drive from 18 yards.
And it was no surprise when United notched their second with just 13 minutes on the clock, and the goal was a thing of beauty. With time and space inside his own half, Rooney looked up and delivered a long, hanging pass forward for Van Persie to run on to and hit a thunderous volley past a motionless Brad Guzan from outside the area.
Van Persie was in inspired mood, even by the Premier League top goalscorer’s standards, and clinched his hat-trick inside 33 minutes when Giggs found him inside the six-yard box. He escaped the tame attentions of a hapless Villa defence and finished smartly, in off the post.
Villa, of course, were still fighting for their top-flight status and saw their goal difference severely damaged as they attempted to keep distance between themselves and 18th-placed Wigan.
Karim El Ahmadi replaced Charles N’Zogbia at half-time as Lambert attempted to shore up his shell-shocked defence, and it proved relatively successful as Villa slowed the tempo of the game down in the second half.
United, though, were going through the motions, allowing Villa to build up a head of steam, but the relegation-threatened side were as sloppy in attack as the hosts had been clinical and often only had themselves to blame when seeing chances go begging.
Andreas Weimann looked to have given Villa a glimmer of hope soon, heading Ashley Westwood’s corner past David de Gea, only to see Van Persie head off the line at the back post.
El Ahmadi then tested De Gea with a dipping half-volley from 30 yards, that the goalkeeper did well to tip over the bar before, up the other end, Kagawa shot high and wide from inside the area after neat footwork to find space.
However, it was all cheers and dancing as the full-time whistle confirmed United’s record-breaking 20th league title, going above Liverpool in the all-time rankings, and taking the trophy back to Old Trafford from local rivals City.