| 7°C Dublin

We rose to the challenge – Fergie

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie was understandably delighted after propelling Manchester United to their record-breaking 20th league title.

Van Persie has often been cited as the key factor in United's success this season and fierce rivals Manchester City falling well short of retaining the crown they won last year. And the Dutchman underlined his class with a fabulous first-half hat-trick.

"It didn't really matter who scored as long as we won this game and we did win this game," said the former Arsenal forward. "From the first minute, everyone played well and everyone wanted it. It was a great to score so early and it was a fantastic game of football.

"I'm very happy but it's weird. I had to wait for so long for my first title and it's a great feeling."

Wayne Rooney revealed last year's heartbreak against City, who won the title in the last minute of the season, spurred them on to glory this time around.

"It's what we've worked all year for and we've fully deserved it. We won this game in the first half and it is a fantastic night for us," said Rooney.

"When you lose the title, it's hard to take and the way we did it wasn't a nice feeling last time so we've all dug in deep and all worked together and done fantastic to put ourselves in the position tonight to finish the job off."

Manager Alex Ferguson said: "You can go on and on about losing a title (last season) but at the end of the day, our consistency for the last 20 years is unbelievable. The focus of the team was good, they focused on the challenge of City and came up trumps."

Asked if Van Persie's second was a contender for goal-of-the-season honours, Ferguson added: "Of the century, for me. It was a marvellous hit, head down, over the ball, perfect timing – a magnificent strike.

"He's been unbelievable, his early form in the first six months was fantastic. He had the spell where he didn't score but he was unbelievable tonight."

Even on their way to the title, Ferguson's team have had to face the criticism that they lack the quality of United teams of the recent past.

But their manager said: "It's dead easy to say that, nostalgia plays tricks on people's minds. Put it in context, we've now got 84 points with four games left – we've never done that.

"We've won most of our games, drawn three, lost four, and the goal tonight... all the great goals we've scored over the years, from David Beckham through to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Eric Cantona, that goal has joined that. These players have joined the pedestal."

United had to grind out results in the early part of the season, coming from behind on several occasions to win.

Veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs, who this season continued a phenomenal record of scoring in every Premier League campaign, believes injuries to key defensive players such as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic largely contributed to their sluggishness.

"From Christmas onwards, we've looked really good and once you've got that platform in defence you're always in with a chance," said the 39-year-old.

The Welshman refused to be drawn on how long he would continue playing for, adding: "I'm just enjoying it and as long as I'm enjoying it and contributing to the team then I'm going to carry on.

"It's nights like this that you're going to miss when you finish but it's nights like this that drive you on."

Giggs was also quick to pay a glowing tribute to Ferguson, hailing his long-time boss as "an unbelievable manager and an unbelievable person".

"Everything comes from the manager, getting players in, getting the right staff in, and he's just an unbelievable manager and an unbelievable person and he deserves everything that he gets," said Giggs. "He works hard and I've been very lucky to play under him for so long."

Irish Independent