Manchester United's Top 5 Players This Season
His hat-trick capped off a momentous night in which he claimed his first league winners' medal, while at the same time, teammate Ryan Giggs achieved his 13th.
These two have been influential for United in taking the Premier League trophy back from noisy neighbours Manchester City, but over the season, who has stood out for the Reds?
There are many contenders to choose from, but the following list picks out just five players, leading to the one player who has been Sir Alex Ferguson's most influential player.
Both Giggs and Nemanja Vidic have to be acknowledged as they have put in superb displays throughout the season although, due to squad rotation, age and injuries, they have just missed out on this top five.
Vidic has looked back to his best, but having only managed 17 league appearances, due to being used sparingly after overcoming a cruciate knee injury sustained last season, he was forced to miss the first two months of this campaign.
Giggs, at the grand-old age of 39, has looked evergreen, and his experience and fine performances have been extremely important; he only just missed the cut. This is purely down to having played fewer games (18) than the five who made the list.
Take a look to see who made the grade and the reasons why they were so pivotal in helping the Red Devils land yet another EPL title.
Jones Would Surely Have Made This List If He Had Played More
Phil Jones gets a big mention here before we see the top five picks as his performances, although limited, have been exceptional at times.
He is destined to be a Manchester United great and performed superbly against Aston Villa in the title-clinching win.
The 21-year-old defender who signed from Blackburn in 2011 has been utilised in various positions by Sir Alex Ferguson, including central midfield were he performed to a high level against Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie.
If Jones had been a regular in the team (which he surely will become), he could have featured in a high position in this list.
Ferguson is convinced of Jones' potential and told SkySports:
"You saw Jones tonight. Arguably, the way he is looking, he could be our best ever player."
Proceed to the next slide to find out which of United's players made the top five and who came out on top.
Rafael's Best Season in a United Shirt by Far
United's Brazilian right back, Rafael da Silva, has come of age this season and has played 26 times according to ESPNFC.com, in the league this season.
He is still prone to diving in too early, but his over-eager approach has now turned into a more calculated style, and as a result, he has cut out a lot of the mistakes he used to make.
He provides United with a great attacking option and links up well with fellow South American winger Antonio Valencia. His speed going forward has also been a big weapon for the champions this season.
Only Patrice Evra has played more league games than Da Silva in this campaign, and despite the Frenchman chipping in with four EPL goals, his defensive performances have seemed to be deteriorating, while the young right-back has blossomed.
Da Silva is well on his way to becoming one of the best right-backs in the world; aged just 22, he is only going to get better.
De Gea Has Silenced the Critics
David de Gea has proved many doubters wrong this season with his assured performances in the United goal.
His shot-stopping ability has never been questioned, but his ability to deal with high balls and the physicality of the English game has left many doubting whether the Spaniard was worthy enough to be Manchester United's No. 1.
Since Christmas, De Gea has kept 10 clean sheets. He has come through a barrage of aerial assault, culminating in West Ham's Andy Carroll clattering into him at full pelt, which left Sir Alex Ferguson furious.
Ferguson believes in his keeper and has heaped praise on the 22-year-old Spaniard. Reported in The Telegraph, he said:
He can handle it. He took a real buffeting on Wednesday but it didn’t affect him at all. He was really composed in what he did. He has developed into a really top goalkeeper. He is quick and composed and we have no problems with him now.
It's also visible that De Gea has put on some muscle; toughening up from the gangly frame he possessed when he arrived from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
The defense has certainly helped De Gea out this season, but he comes ahead of Da Silva on this list as the pressure that comes with being Manchester United's No. 1 is immense, and any error gets scrutinised more than any other English team.
His dedication and mentality has allowed the rising star to become one of, if not the best keeper in the league, and coming up with vital saves at crucial parts of the season has helped create a calming effect on the team as a whole.
Rio Shows There's Still Life in the Old Dog
Rio Ferdinand has been United's most used center-back this season, and the 34-year-old has seen a return to good form.
Maybe due to his age—or his persistent back problems that have caused his manager to use him sparingly to control the issue in recent years—Ferdinand's performances had looked to be on a steady decline.
However, this season he has come back with a bang and played in 25 league games and has looked like the Rio of old. This led to an England call-up from Roy Hodgson after being snubbed earlier in the season.
This was to be to United's gain, as a fully fit Ferdinand has been key to the league success and his presence has brought some stability to the defense, offering guidance and support to younger players like Da Silva and Jonny Evans.
After many people were confused as to why Ferdinand was left out of Hodgson's plans, Ryan Giggs admitted he felt it was to his team's advantage. He told the Mirror:
"He's been playing like that all season. His experience, leadership skills and organisation were needed with two young players around him, in Jonny Evans and Rafael."
His experience and calmness on the ball puts him ahead of Da Silva and De Gea on this list, and due to the fact that he has played eight more games than Vidic (17 appearances per ESPNFC.com) in the league, he has been the most influential defender for the Red Devils this season.
Consistency of Carrick
Michael Carrick has been an almost ever-present in the league, only missing one game, and has arguably been Manchester United's most consistent performer.
This reason alone puts him at high at No. 2 in this list, and he surely must have been one of Sir Alex's first names on the sheet each week.
He hasn't set the world alight with eye-catching skill or wonder goals, in fact he has only scored once with a crucial prod of the ball against Stoke.
His simplicity and almost Paul Scholes-like calmness on the ball has quietly helped to keep United ticking over.
The 31-year-old's flawless displays and passing ability has led the PFA to nominate him in their annual Player of the Year award.
Tom Cleverley has been in and out of the team, and Scholes has hardly featured in his last season at Old Trafford.
Antonio Valencia hasn't had his best season, and in March he admitted that himself, football365.com, while the likes of Nani and Ashley Young have only shown brief glimpses of their ability.
He is often the starting point of an attack but also provided United with extra support for the defense (even playing center-back in the first game of the season against Everton).
All in all, he has been integral to United's success in what has been hailed as his best season as a Manchester United player, and he is someone who should be able to maintain his game for a few more seasons to come.
Robin van Persie Has Been Most Influential Player
Robin van Persie is the No. 1 pick, as he has been the most influential player for Manchester United this year.
He has outperformed Wayne Rooney, who has had an inconsistent campaign blighted with constant rumors of a transfer away from the club.
He is classy and deadly in front of goal, and this was highlighted by that superb volley against Villa (see video above).
Sir Alex Ferguson has heaped praise on the 29-year-old and told BBCSport:
"In terms of impact he has had as big an impact as anyone I can imagine."
He has contributed to the team not only with his goals, of which he is currently the EPL's leading scorer, but also by supplying eight assists.
Statistics alone must make him the most influential player in the team, and in the process he has become an instant hero at Old Trafford.
This is my list, but what do you think?