The difference

Robin van Persie's champagne season saluted after his hat-trick confirmed United's 20th league title.

Last Updated: 24/04/13 at 05:50

Manchester United 3 Fulham 2, 25/08/12 - (1)

United were level within seven minutes when Van Persie marked his home debut with a stunning first goal for his new club. The Dutch forward had already linked brilliantly with Kagawa and Antonio Valencia, before beating goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with a powerful left-foot strike. His goal came from Patrice Evra's cross, when Van Persie escaped defender Brede Hangeland before aiming a half-volley into the net from 12 yards. Mark Ogden, The Telegraph

Southampton 2 Manchester United 3, 02/09/12 - (3)

Believe it or not, there was a point here when Robin van Persie seemed dangerously close to experiencing the snake-lick of his manager's tongue. The Dutchman had missed a penalty, trying a disguised chip that went horribly wrong, and Sir Alex Ferguson was facing the distinct possibility that Manchester United's 1,000th game on his watch was going to end in something bordering on disarray. What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary and can be filed, with immediate effect, in the already bulging portfolio of great United comebacks. Van Persie's equaliser arrived after 87 minutes and the game had extended into stoppage time when his header flashed past Kelvin Davis for a hat-trick winner. Daniel Taylor, The Guardian

Liverpool 1 Manchester United 2, 23/09/12 - (1)

On Friday Ferguson complained that only once in nearly 26 years had his side been awarded a penalty at Anfield. But when Johnson lost possession to Antonio Valencia, he chased the United winger and foolishly fouled him in the penalty area, first by clipping Valencia's heel and then by lunging in from behind when he had no hope of winning the ball. United had missed their previous three penalties, and Reina almost saved this effort from an otherwise ineffective Robin van Persie. But the ball reached its target and a Liverpool side which actually ended the game with nine men - thanks to an injury to Martin Kelly - had no answer. Matt Lawton, The Daily Mail

Manchester United 4 Stoke 2, 20/10/12 - (1)

While Rooney would take the headlines, Van Persie probably enjoyed the better game. In the Stoke goal, Asmir Begovic was wearing a florescent orange shirt that would have made him visible on a fogbound November night on the M6, and soon Ferguson's array of strikers began to find his range. A shot from Welbeck skimmed the top of his bar, and then came a superbly-worked second. Antonio Valencia feigned to cross the ball deep into the Stoke area and then played it short to Van Persie, who sent it first time into the corner of Begovic's net. Tim Rich, The Independent

Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3, 28/10/12 - (1)

This terrific sporting encounter, a game spiced by the brilliance of Robin van Persie and Juan Mata, was scarred by some poor defending, some hapless decision-making by the officials and a claim from Chelsea that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, used "inappropriate language" to John Obi Mikel. United were running amok down the right, causing constant problems for Cole. United stormed forward again successfully after 11 minutes. Rafael, and then Antonio Valencia combined to catch Cole out. Again Van Persie's movement shimmered with intelligence, losing Gary Cahill, running towards the near-post and meeting Valencia's cross with a right-footed finish. Henry Winter, The Telegraph

Manchester United 2 Arsenal 1, 03/11/12 - (1)

Everyone was aware that the game was bound to revolve around Robin van Persie in some way, though few could have anticipated his moment of impact coming so early. Wenger fretted beforehand that though his defenders know Van Persie well they might still not be sharp enough to match his reactions. He did not consider the possibility that his defence might be dozy enough to practically invite their former striker to open the scoring in under three minutes, but that is exactly what happened. Thomas Vermaelen was perfectly positioned to deal with Rafael da Silva's routine cross from the right, yet inexplicably instead of clearing or controlling the ball he made a present of it to Van Persie with a predictable result. Paul Wilson, The Observer

Manchester United 1 West Ham 0, 28/11/12 - (1)

His goal was nothing special, yet they all count and it banished the prospect of United having to chase the game after conceding the first goal once again. West Ham were simply caught out by the urgency of United's start, with Allardyce's defenders back-pedalling as Michael Carrick threaded the ball through to Van Persie, whose left-foot strike deflected off James Collins and into Jaaskelainen's net. It was the quickest goal in the Premier League this season and the fastest at Old Trafford since Ruud van Nistelrooy netted after 30 seconds against Southampton in December 2001. Mark Odgen, The Telegraph

Reading 3 Manchester United 4, 01/12/12 - (1)

After the storm came the drought. This was a contest that featured a seven-goal avalanche inside 34 minutes but then fell barren, yet was still unmissable and had Sir Alex Ferguson branding the experience "agony". Rooney created Robin van Persie's 13th of his debut United season. Carrick's pass was flicked sideways by the forward and the Dutchman, with his right boot, slid the ball beyond Federic. Jamie Jackson, The Observer

Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3, 09/12/12 - (1)

THE watching Tom Cruise could vouch for the fact that United have A Few Good Men. There is Wayne Rooney, who became the youngest player to hit 150 Premier League goals, as he put his team two up in the first half. And there is the irrepressible Robin van Persie, whose 14th of the season won a fantastic game after City had threatened a Mission: Impossible comeback. In added time, Tevez caught Rafael out wide on the right and Van Persie could smell blood. His curling shot may well have been saved by the diving Hart but Samir Nasri stuck out his left leg to deflect it into the corner and United had won right in front of their own fans behind the goal. Shaun Custis, The Sun

Manchester United 3 Sunderland 1, 15/12/12 - (1)

As the manager who harnessed Henrik Larsson in his pomp when in charge of Celtic, Martin O'Neill knows the potency of a talisman.Sunderland's manager looks at Manchester United's Robin van Persie and sees a force with an impact similar to that of Lionel Messi for Barcelona. Asked if the Van Persie influence on United, whose opener against Sunderland was a 12th Premier League goal since joining, is the same as Larsson's was for Celtic, O'Neill said: "Absolutely. United have paid close on £30m for a player [£24m] who had just one year left on his contract, so that might tell you how valuable they perceive him. But it's not just the perception, the reality is that he has been fantastic." Jamie Jackson, The Guardian

Manchester United 4 Newcastle 3, 26/12/12 - (1)

Seven goals in the pouring rain and enough breathless excitement, controversy and unpredictability to make Downton Abbey's Christmas special seem like an afternoon spent in front of the test card. Thank heavens indeed for Boxing Day football. Thank heavens for this. United's equaliser, in the 71st minute, came after Krul saved Robin van Persie's shot only for the United striker to bury the rebound. There may have been an obstruction by Van Persie on Fabricio Coloccini in the build-up but referee Dean didn't spot it. Such was the pace of play by this stage that it was hard to blame him. Ian Ladyman, The Daily Mail

Manchester United 2 West Brom 0, 29/12/12 - (1)

Van Persie came off the bench with 25 minutes left and sealed the win with a stunning last-minute finish, wrapping his left foot around the ball and giving ex-United keeper Ben Foster no chance. After scoring, the Dutchman revealed a T-shirt with the slogan 'R.I.P. Tchuna We Will Never Forget You'. It was thought to be a tribute to a friend of his who died 24 hours before the game. Ferguson added: "Robin is a fantastic player. He came on and changed the game for us. Every time the ball went to him he got hold of it and he did really well for us." David McDonnell, Daily Mirror

Wigan 0 Manchester United 4, 01/01/13 - (2)

On the ground where their grip on the Barclays Premier League trophy first began to weaken last April, an emphatic Manchester United victory yesterday reinforced the feeling that, with the sublime talent of Robin van Persie on board, they will not allow the title to slip through their fingers again this season. Oliver Kay, The Times

Manchester United 2 Liverpool 1, 13/01/13 - (1)

Target man, talisman, Robin van Persie is looking every elegant inch the man for all reasons in the title race. He scored his 17th Premier League goal of the season, and created the second for Nemanja Vidic, filling with belief those Manchester United fans waving their 'Van The Man' scarves that the No 20 will reflect their title total come May. The build-up itself was a joy to behold, showing United at their quick-moving, quick-thinking best. The ball flowed from Kagawa and Welbeck to Cleverley and then to Evra down the left. The Frenchman's cross was low and hard but opportunity really knocked because of Van Persie's movement. He stepped back to deceive Daniel Agger, who should have been tighter, should have been more alert. It was a masterclass in creating space. Van Persie then took a stride quickly towards the incoming ball, transferring it instantly left-footed from 10 yards past Reina. Henry Winter, The Telegraph

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 1, 20/01/13 - (1)

United have a striker who increasingly gives the impression that, even with four months still to play, everybody else is competing for the silver or bronze when it comes to the player-of-the-season awards. The latest demonstration of Van Persie's ability to find space, elude opponents and then finish calmly and ruthlessly arrived in the form of a far-post header from Tom Cleverley's cross. A period of run-of-the-mill passing had suddenly accelerated into an incisive forward move, first to the left and then the right. Carrick sprayed the ball out to the left, where Welbeck cut inside, thought about having a shot but then took the better option of playing it to Cleverley. Once the cross reached Van Persie there was an inevitability about where it would finish. As a former Arsenal player, his celebrations reminded us that he cherished this one. Daniel Taylor, The Guardian

Manchester United 2 Everton 0, 10/02/13 - (1)

Until Robin Van Persie scored United's second goal, in time added on at the end of the first half, Everton's threat remained. Van Persie killed the game by taking Rafael's smart throughball past Howard and getting the ball in past Heitinga as the Everton player slid in on the line. From much the same position, Van Persie had hit the post on ten minutes but once again he gave United that extra dimension of quality at a critical point of the game. Sam Wallace, The Independent

Stoke City 0 Manchester United 2, 14/04/13 - (1)

This was close to a perfect afternoon's work for Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson's side re-established their 15-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League after cruising to a comfortable victory over Stoke City that saw Robin van Persie end his goal drought with a penalty kick, quickly followed by a bear hug that almost knocked his manager off his feet. "He nearly killed me! He forgets I'm 71," Ferguson said. Van Persie's goal was his first in 751 minutes of football, stretching back more than two months. Stuart James, The Guardian

West Ham 2 Manchester United 2, 17/04/13 - (1)

The champions elect were even a little fortunate here, with Van Persie looking offside when Shinji Kagawa's shot hit the woodwork, the Dutchman pouncing on the rebound to equalise. With City winning, United are still six points off the title, with matches against Aston Villa at home and Arsenal away up next. This presumes City do not slip up at Tottenham on Sunday. Lose, and it could be United's title by Monday night. Martin Samuel, The Daily Mail

Manchester United 3 Aston Villa 0, 22/04/13 - (3)

Robin van Persie famously said that, when faced with the biggest decision of his career last summer, "the little boy inside screamed 'Manchester United'". Last night, finally he got to live out his childhood fantasies as a glorious exhibition of his goalscoring prowess secured yet another Barclays Premier League title for his club. Three goals inside the first 34 minutes against Aston Villa confirmed United's twentieth league title, but the bare statistical value of his goals - his 27th, 28th and 29th since that £24million move from Arsenal - do not begin to do justice to his evening's work. His second goal was so stunning, both in its conception and its execution, that it seemed tempting to declare his team as champions there and then. Set up by Wayne Rooney's lofted pass, this was the champagne moment that United supporters had come to see. Oliver Kay, The Times

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