Roaring into the 20s

Manchester United's record title is testimony to the club's domination in domestic competitions

It doesn't seem like much to have won a 20th league title in 2013, when the first one came way back in 1908. But 13 of Manchester United's record-setting 20 titles have come in the Premier League era that began in 1992, outlining just how dominant the Red Devils have been in domestic competition over the last 20 years. This latest trophy was confirmed against Aston Villa, whom United beat 3-0 on Monday night, and it was one of their most comfortable titles. They won at a canter from cross-town rivals Manchester City a victory made sweeter as it was City that pipped United to the post last year with four games to spare. Not too shabby for a side whose football was, through the campaign, most often described by the adjectives "uninspired" and "pedestrian".

The architect of United's domination was not Wayne Rooney or Robin Van Persie, however. Players have come and gone, and some are missed, but the one constant in the United story in the EPL era has been manager Alex Ferguson. The legendary Scot is now 71, and his longevity at the pinnacle of world football is astonishing at a time when managers are dismissed after a bad six months at the helm. It has seemed, and it is generally agreed, that this season is an example that Ferguson has, through sheer force of will, inspired mediocre sides to titles and cups. This side often had the look of an incessant machine, banging out win after effective win against smaller teams, even if the game was not all that beautiful.

Prising the title out of United's grip is, as their competition have discovered, a gruelling task, one a mere blank cheque to buy stars cannot accomplish. Defending the title from Ferguson's United is even more difficult only Jose Mourinho's Chelsea managed it. Chelsea, City and Liverpool's seasons are demonstrations of the worth of a good manager. For United fans, the day to fear is not when Van Persie leaves, but when Ferguson finally retires.

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