Month by month guide to the Premier League
Alex Ferguson bowed out in fitting style as Manchester United won the Premier League title, Arsenal pipped Tottenham in the race for fourth place, while Wigan, Reading and QPR were relegated. Here we look at the twists and turns in England's top-flight over the last nine months:
United's bid to wrestle the title back from Manchester City starts in tame fashion with a lacklustre display in a 1-0 defeat at Everton 24 hours after the champions kick off with a 3-2 home win over newly-promoted Southampton.
But Robin van Persie, who made his United debut as a substitute in that loss, gets Alex Ferguson's men up and running with a goal on his Old Trafford debut in a 3-2 win over Fulham.
Van Persie underlines why Ferguson was willing to spend £24 million to lure him from Arsenal as the Dutch forward scores twice in the last three minutes to complete a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Southampton.
Van Persie make the decisive intervention at Liverpool as well, his lare penalty sealing a 2-1 victory, but United's run of four successive wins is ended by Tottenham, whose 3-2 win at Old Trafford is their first there since 1989.
Fortunately for United, City's draws with Stoke and Arsenal hinted at an unconvincing title defence from their neighbours.
There is an ominous look to United now as they thrashed Newcastle 3-0 at St James' Park and then hit four against Stoke before Javier Hernandez's late strike clinches a dramatic 3-2 win at nine-man Chelsea.
That result leaves United one point behind early leaders Chelsea.
Van Persie takes just three minutes to score against his old club as Arsenal are beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford and the following weekend Hernandez steals the spotlight as his double helps United come from two goals down to win 3-2 at Aston Villa.
A shock 1-0 defeat at Norwich raises questions about United's ability to retain top spot, but City can't take advantage as a 0-0 draw at Chelsea in Rafael Benitez's first match as Blues boss following Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal.
Harry Redknapp takes charge at struggling QPR after Mark Hughes is sacked following a dismal run of 12 games without a win.
United's leaky defence gives out plenty of gifts in the run up to Christmas, but a glut of goals from van Persie and Wayne Rooney secure five wins from six matches.
A 4-3 victory at Reading is followed by an explosive Manchester derby which United win 3-2 after van Persie curls in a late free-kick just moments after Pablo Zabaleta's equaliser for City.
City suffer another significant blow on Boxing Day as United fight back to beat Newcastle 4-3, while the champions crash 1-0 at Sunderland and trail seven points behind their title rivals.
A 2-1 home victory against Liverpool keeps United in pole position, while City win three of their four matches, including a 2-0 success at Arsenal, but they remain seven points behind.
QPR threaten to mount a great escape under Redknapp, with a 1-0 win at local rivals Chelsea the highlight of an unbeaten month, while relegation rivals Reading beat West Brom and Newcastle.
Fulham, Everton and QPR are brushed aside without conceding a goal as United turn the screw on erratic City.
Mancini's team are held to a 2-2 draw by Liverpool at Eastlands and even more damaging is the 3-1 defeat that follows at Southampton.
City's lack of hunger to retain the title is clear for all to see as they slip to a 2-0 defeat at Everton, leaving United a massive 15 points clear with the finish line in sight.
At the other end of the table, Reading manager Brian McDermott is sacked after a 2-1 home defeat against fellow strugglers Aston Villa puts his side deep in trouble.
Christian Benteke's late strike then gives Villa a priceless 3-2 victory over QPR, moving Paul Lambert's team six points clear of the drop zone.
But United get the title celebrations started as a 3-0 win at home to Aston Villa seals the 13th Premier League crown of Ferguson's reign.
New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio makes an immediate impact as his side win 3-0 at bitter rivals Newcastle in his second match in charge, lifting them away from the bottom three.
There is no such luck for Reading and QPR, who are both relegated after their 0-0 draw at the Madejski Stadium.
Just three days after beating Manchester City to lift the FA Cup, Wigan, who were last in the second tier in 2005, are condemned to relegation as Arsenal romp to a 4-1 win over Roberto Martinez's men.
City manager Roberto Mancini is sacked following his team's Wembley embarrassment -- exactly a year after they won the Premier League.
Arsenal's 1-0 win at Newcastle on the final day means the Gunners take the last Champions League berth ahead of Spurs despite their rivals' 1-0 win over Sunderland.
Meanwhile, Ferguson's extraordinary career ends in suitably incredible fashion as he takes charge of his 1,500th and final game at West Bromwich Albion which sees United concede three times in the last nine minutes in the first 5-5 draw in Premier League history.
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