It was as if the misery of 2011/12 had inspired a sheer desperation to avoid a nerve-jangling close to the season, such was United’s determination to win each weekend. The consistent performances of key unsung personnel like Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra evinced a team determined to wring every last drop from its competitive instincts.
When City lost 3-1 at Southampton in February, and the Reds beat Everton 2-0 the following day, the gap between the champions and the champions-elect was a mammoth 12 points. In effect, the title was all but over.
City managed to record a derby victory when the sides met in M16 in April, but it was mere consolation.
Fittingly, the season was put to bed by van Persie in April, via a rapid first-half hat-trick against Aston Villa at Old Trafford that sent Ferguson’s men 16 points clear and confirmed them as champions.
The great man would announce his retirement within weeks, though there was still time for an appropriately unique 5-5 draw against West Brom in his 1500th and final match as United manager..
Inevitably, he would bow out as a winner. After a comprehensive title bid that was almost entirely hewn from his own cast-iron desire to triumph above all others, it seemed only fair.
TOP 5 APPEARANCE-MAKERS
Robin van Persie: 38
Michael Carrick: 36
Patrice Evra: 34
Antonio Valencia: 30
David De Gea: 28