Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Absolutely Electric: Manchester United 3 - Aston Villa 0

photo by berevia PhotoRee
Manchester United celebrated their 20th Premier League title in entertaining style Monday night, thumping Aston Villa 3-0 in front of  home crowd of nearly 76,000 rapturous spectators. Any lingering suspense in the contest disappeared early, and the final score was the result of a barrage of first half goals from none other than United's main man of the season, Dutch forward Robin Van Persie.  The win capped off yet another fine season for the home side with four games still left to play -- and only a record League point haul now left to aim for.

If the mood was celebratory before kickoff, it was ratcheted up another level right at the very outset, as United found themselves on the board with less than two minutes gone: Robin Van Persie finding the back of the net after beautiful interplay involving Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia, and Ryan Giggs -- the ball journeying from side to side before ending up in the back of the net. Despite falling behind so quickly, the visitors could have considered themselves fortunate not to be two in the hole when the Dutchman fired just over the bar a minute later, the United attack in full gear, and the atmosphere inside Old Trafford resembling the energy of the team: absolutely electric.

Rafael banged the post in yet another just-miss attack from the soon-to-be-champions, the stadium absolutely buzzing now, as if the home fans had saved up several weeks of frustration and decided to vent it all on their relegation threatened opponents.
Christian Benteke came close to leveling after 11 minutes, reminding those watching of the Villans' ability to counterattack to semi-devastating effect. But any sense the result was somehow hanging in the balance was completely snuffed out in the 13th minute, when Van Persie unloaded a left-footed cannon on the Villa goal in one of the must-see moments of the season: the over-the-shoulder ball coming at Van Persie as he hit the top of the 18 yard box, a picture perfect offering from Wazza that was topped only by the outstanding quality of the Dutchman's finish.

That the quality of play slipped slightly thereafter -- if only momentarily -- could have been expected, as both sides needed to catch their breath after the most action-packed 15 minutes of the campaign.

The hat trick, though, would not be denied for much longer, and arrived after only 32 minutes: the last goal occuring when Shinji Kagawa sprung free Giggs and the Welshman unselfishly dished the ball to Van Persie, who momentarily fiddled around the box before hitting the roof with his third goal of the young evening. When the half time whistle blew 15 minutes later, the exhale was collective -- not for relief, but from pure exhilaration.
Showcasing the fact he was equally at home at both ends of the pitch, it was Van Persie who was forced to clear Andreas Weimann's ball off the line to preserve the shutout shortly after the interval. Rooney's giveaway required David De Gea's bailout, as the Villans stubbornly refused to join in the coronation, the reversals prompting Sir Alex to walk out to his technical area for a closer look at his charges, showcasing the drive and passion that has fueled the United manager to such incredible success over the past two and a half decades.

Jonny Evans and Shinji Kagawa nearly added a fourth goal for the evening -- the defender's cheeky backheel hit the post, while the normally composed midfielder's finish was high, wide and not so handsome -- and although Gabriel Agnonlahor required a fingertip save from De Gea to keep the shutout intact, the result was never in doubt. Although the second half lacked the electricity of the first 45, it nevertheless concluded one of the most satisfying of victories in a season full of celebrations at Old Trafford.

This is a fired up farlieonfootie for April 23.

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