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Monday, May 20, 2013
The games that swung the title

Richard Jolly

Richard Jolly picks out a selection of matches that defined Manchester United's title-winning season.

Southampton 2 Manchester United 3 (September 2)

A match that set the tone for both United's and Robin van Persie's season. They were 2-1 down with four minutes to go and the Dutchman had missed a penalty. Then came a comeback, inspired by the 24 million signing and proving he was a bona fide United player. On his second start, Van Persie finished with a hat-trick, his first for the club, including an injury-time decider, and, in typical United fashion, he preferred to praise Paul Scholes, who exerted a huge impact as a substitute.

Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3 (October 28)

Strange as it sounds now, United could have been seven points off the pace. They kicked off four behind leaders Chelsea but were quick to impose themselves at Stamford Bridge. Van Persie was involved in both early goals as they took a two-goal lead. While Roberto Di Matteo's men drew level, they then had Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres sent off before Javier Hernandez condemned the nine men to defeat. A huge win was also a typical one: United secured a series of crucial away victories at some of their fiercest rivals in the autumn while, in little over three months, six of their matches finished in a 3-2 scoreline.

Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3 (December 9)

The day the balance of power in Manchester swung back United's way. They finished it six points ahead of City after Van Persie, the man Roberto Mancini had targeted, struck as 'Fergie Time' proved particularly cruel for the defending champions, who had fought back from 2-0 down following Wayne Rooney's first-half brace. The circumstances of the winner are familiar enough  Samir Nasri, with a rather half-hearted effort in a defensive wall that Mancini complained only had "two-and-a-half" men, deflected a free kick beyond Joe Hart  and its importance is indisputable. It was the season's defining moment.

Manchester United 4 Newcastle 3 (December 26)

Yet another late winner from the invaluable Hernandez, yet another comeback and yet another game with a crucial contribution from the ubiquitous Van Persie, but also a turning point. As it had been for much of the first half of the season, United's defending was slipshod and, when Papiss Cisse put Newcastle ahead for the third time, they had conceded 28 goals in 19 league games. Thereafter, they only let in ten in the next 18 and David de Gea, a culprit then, emerged as the division's best goalkeeper over the second half of the campaign.

Manchester United 2 Everton 0 (February 10)

A game that was notable, in its own way, for the lack of drama. Everton had helped cost United the title last season, recovering from 4-2 down to take a point, but there was no repeat as Ferguson's side demoralised Manchester City by churning out win after win in a run of 50 points from a possible 54. Phil Jones' expert man-marking of Marouane Fellaini, who had ensured United's season got off to a false start at Goodison Park in August, was one indication of the improvement in their defending, while Ryan Giggs, with timeless class, was the match's most influential player.


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