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May 13, 2012

Team of the Week

On one of the most dramatic days in Premier League history, Tottenham sealed a top four place and possible Champions League football thanks to a vital contribution from veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel. With the game poised at 1-0, the 41-year-old saved superbly from John Arne Riise and Moussa Dembele to keep Spurs' clean sheet intact and, Chelsea permitting, help them reclaim a place at Europe's top table.

Manchester United may have narrowly missed out on their 20th Premier League title but the experience of battling at the top will only make their young players, like Phil Jones, even better next season. After his mid-campaign lull, Jones has had a strong end to the season and he was solid when confronted by James McClean and dangerous going the other way, providing the cross from which Wayne Rooney scored the only goal of the game.

It is one of the great conundrums of the English top flight: how can Everton be so poor in the first half of the season and so good in the second? John Heitinga is a shining example of their Jekyll and Hyde form, turning in assured performances since the turn of the year. His display, and goal, meant Everton added Newcastle to a list of teams vanquished at Goodison Park in recent times that includes Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham.

One can't help falling in love with Swansea's style of play. Their aesthetically pleasing approach to the game was in evidence on the final day as they beat Liverpool and their fans dressed as Elvis to make a mockery of one pundit's pre-season prediction that it was more likely the King would be found alive than Swansea staying up. Angel Rangel has played his part, and as well as keeping the likes of Carroll and Suarez relatively quiet he laid on a late winner for Danny Graham with a cute pass as the Swans ended the season in style.

Wigan made it seven wins from their final nine Premier League games with a 3-1 victory over already doomed Wolves and they did so thanks to a brace from Emmerson Boyce. His recent goal against Fulham was his first since 2009 and he took his tally to three with a simple header from Jean Beasejour's corner before unleashing a dipping volley into the top corner from 25 yards to secure another Wigan win on what could be manager Roberto Martinez's final game in charge, if those Liverpool reports are to be believed.

It seems as if Everton have stumbled on the perfect foil for Nikica Jelavic, and it also happens to be the man with the Premier League's finest afro: Marouane Fellaini. Putting Fabricio Coloccini in the shade in the barnet stakes, the Belgian was formidable as Everton made it seven wins from their last eight home games. He dragged Newcastle defenders out of position all afternoon and provided the all-important opening goal for Steven Pienaar.

A frantic game at The Hawthorns offered up five goals and a host of goalmouth action. That West Brom ended up losing the game was paltry reward for James Morrison's efforts. An ever present under Roy Hodgson this season, the midfielder did his best to send his gaffer off to Euro 2012 with a final day victory under his belt, but thanks to some calamity goalkeeping from Martin Fulop his assists for both of West Brom's goals went unrewarded.

Given the epic climax at Eastlands, it has been somewhat overshadowed that QPR had a pretty good day themselves. They lost in the dying seconds but deserved to stay in the Premier League given their tireless display in the face of a City juggernaut. Well, everyone apart from Joey Barton. Epitomising their spirit was the excellent Jamie Mackie who offered an outlet time and time again and finished off a fine move with a powerful header to give Rangers a 2-1 lead.

A 2-0 scoreline at Carrow Road confirmed two things; this has been a fine season for Norwich and an utterly miserable one for Aston Villa. Striker Simeon Jackson proved too hot to handle for Villa as he won the free kick that led to Grant Holt's opener, before settling the match himself by capitalising on Carlos Cuellar's mistake to slot into the net at the second attempt after Shay Given had blocked his initial effort.

For a long while it looked like his strike was going to secure yet another top flight crown for Sir Alex Ferguson, but sadly for Manchester United, Wayne Rooney's 27th goal of the season was eclipsed by a rousing finale from their noisy neighbours. Rooney tucked home Phil Jones' cross to settle the match and was unlucky to strike the woodwork with two free kicks as United went in search of a second. Only Robin van Persie has scored more Premier League goals this season.

It was the goal that delivered Manchester City their first title in 44 years and enshrined the climax to the 2011-12 Premier League season as one of the finest England has ever seen. With Manchester United preparing to celebrate a 20th title, and a thick air of despondency settling over Eastlands, Sergio Aguero strolled into the box and fired past Paddy Kenny to spark an explosion of joy in the blue half of the city.

No question who is our manager of the week, Roberto Mancini. As City-itus ravaged Eastlands, Mancini's body convulsed with tension and he screamed tactics at no-one in particular. But his substitutions made a big difference as Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli helped alter the course of history and ensure Mancini delivered City's first title in 44 years at only the second time of asking.

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