Premier League End-of-Season Awards: Player, Manager of the Year and More
The final day might not have matched the thrills of last year, when Manchester City won the title with virtually the last kick of the season, but it has not been without its highs and lows.
Manchester United had their 20th league title wrapped up long before the end of the campaign as City's defence of the championship failed to ignite.
Reading and Queens Park Rangers departed the top flight after short stays, while Wigan Athletic finally paid the price for flirting with relegation on several occasions during their eight-year spell in the Premier League, as they lost at Arsenal three days after winning the FA Cup.
If there was a defining characteristic of the 2012-13 Premier League season, it is the retirements at the end of the season of managers and players alike.
Anybody doubting Swansea City could hold their own following the departure of manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool last summer were soon proved wrong, as Michael Laudrup guided the team to the Capital One Cup in February and ensured a top-half finish.
Everton were the surprise package in the race for Champions League qualification for much of the season but fell away towards the end of the campaign. But Manchester United-bound David Moyes can consider his final season at Goodison Park a successful one.
Southampton controversially ditched manager Nigel Adkins in January before bringing in Mauricio Pochettino. The move did little harm to their chances of staying in the top flight.
Adkins replaced Brian McDermott at Reading in another controversial management move, but he could do little to prevent the club going down.
QPR also dispensed with the services of Mark Hughes in favour of Harry Redknapp, but the damage was already done to their hopes of staying up, and the Loftus Road side dropped into the Championship after a two-year stay in the Premier League.
So who were the winners in this season's Premier League campaign?
Team of the season
The obvious choice here would be Manchester United. The team won the Premier League at a canter and saw off the challenge of Manchester City with little effort.
United were helped in their quest by City's meek defence of the championship, while Chelsea imploded earlier in the campaign, and Arsenal were never really in the race.
However, for sheer surprise, the award this year goes to Swansea City.
After Brendan Rodgers left for Anfield, there was a sense of pessimism that the Liberty Stadium side would suffer second-season syndrome and struggle to stay up.
But the arrival of Michael Laudrup in South Wales signalled a new era and even an improvement in the team's performances on the field.
True, there were some disappointing results this season too, with Everton and Liverpool both enjoying big wins over the Welsh club. And the Premier League season ended in a disappointing run of seven matches without a win before the victory at Wigan on May 7.
But Swansea's run in the Capital One Cup included wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, and Laudrup's team produced an excellent display at Wembley in the 5-0 win over Bradford City.
Swansea and Laudrup will now compete in Europe next season after winning the trophy and finishing ninth in the table, two places above last season.
Player of the season
There were a number of contenders, but one name stood head and shoulders above others.
Manchester United striker Robin van Persie was the marquee signing at Old Trafford last summer, and his haul of 25 goals before the final game of the season helped United win the title.
However, the Netherlands international misses out on the award after a barren spell of seven matches without a goal came at exactly the wrong time for the Champions League campaign.
So the award this season goes to Gareth Bale.
The Tottenham talisman enjoyed his best season at the club, scoring 21 Premier League goals to keep the White Hart Lane side within touching distance of Champions League qualification.
The Wales international scored as Spurs defeated Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford in September and consistently proved to be the difference for Andre Villas-Boas' team during the season.
It is no coincidence that Tottenham's Europa League campaign almost foundered at Inter Milan with Bale out of the side and then did fall with the winger injured for the semifinal second leg at Basel.
Bale has collected the Players' Player of the Year, the Young Player of the Year and the Football Writers' Player of the Year awards this season. But there really has been no other competition for the haul of awards.
Manager of the Year
There can only be one, really. Sir Alex Ferguson has called it a day at the age of 71 and signed off as Manchester United manager at West Bromwich Albion in his 1,500th match in charge.
His trophy haul at Old Trafford comfortably ensures him as the greatest manager of the Premier League era, if not the history of football.
The Scot has built and rebuilt his team over the last 26 years, rarely interrupting the seemingly seamless flow of silverware into the club.
Missing out on the Premier League title last season to Manchester City in such dramatic circumstances was a major blow, but Ferguson delivered a knockout blow to City's defence with the capture of Van Persie from Arsenal for £24 million days before the start of the season (BBC Sport).
Ferguson and United comfortably won the Premier League title four weeks before the end of the season.
Retirement of the Season
No, not Sir Alex this time, despite his phenomenal achievements.
The list for this award has grown exponentially in recent weeks with any number of high-profile players and managers calling it a day.
David Beckham, admittedly not a Premier League player since 2003, called time on his career after playing for Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Paris Saint-Germain and two loan spells with AC Milan.
Former England international Michael Owen announced his retirement from the game in March at the age of 33 following an injury-ravaged career.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes would have been our choice for this award following his decision to end his playing career this season, but the former England international has already retired once, and who's going to rule out another comeback?
So the award goes to Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.
Carragher announced his decision in February and bid farewell to the Kop after the final game of the season against QPR at Anfield.
The 35-year-old, who made 737 appearances for the Reds, has been a mainstay in the Liverpool team alongside midfielder Steven Gerrard over the last 15 years.
Carragher, who will take up an analyst role with Sky Sports next season, will leave a huge hole in the team after his retirement.
Liverpool might not have been the force they once were during Carragher's time at the club, but the 2005 Champions League final comeback against AC Milan remains a highlight of a career many players would love to replicate.
There is little wonder why Liverpool supporters chant, "All we want is a team of Carraghers." Unfortunately for Brendan Rodgers and the fans, they are about to find out what it's like without one.
Signing of the season
Robin van Persie started the season like a steam train following his £24 million move from Arsenal, but a relatively barren spell in front of goal helped to cost United in the Champions League tie against Real Madrid.
Liverpool snapped up Daniel Sturridge in January for a fee believed to be £12 million, as the Daily Telegraph reported, and has responded well with 11 goals since leaving Chelsea. But the England international's big test will come next season with a full campaign at Anfield.
But there is only one winner in this category: Swansea striker Michu.
Michael Laudrup signed the Spanish striker for just £2 million from Rayo Vallecano, as BBC Sport reported, and has rewarded the manager's faith in him with a haul of 18 Premier League goals for the Welsh club.
Michu, 27, opened the season with two goals in a 5-0 win at Queens Park Rangers as part of a record of seven goals from his opening nine matches with the Swans.
He was also on target as Swansea claimed a five-goal drubbing of Bradford City in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley in February.
The "Point Proved" special award
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas was high up in our thinking all season for this one.
The Portuguese coach had been sacked by Chelsea in March 2012 after just months in charge. It was debatable whether the Portuguese coach would manage in the top flight again after such a disappointment.
But when Tottenham sacked Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane, chairman Daniel Levy turned to Villas-Boas and has not been let down with the manager continuing the work done by his predecessor.
Meanwhile, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is poised to make his ninth managerial change in nine years since taking over the Stamford Bridge club.
Which brings us neatly to the winner...Rafael Benitez.
The appointment of the former Liverpool boss as interim manager to replace Roberto Di Matteo was greeted with disdain by a sizeable number of Chelsea supporters.
Benitez was jeered from the Stamford Bridge stands when he appeared in the dugout for his first game in charge against Manchester City in November, as CNN reported. It didn't stop there either.
But the interim manager maintained his dignity and refused to be cowed by the boos ringing in his ears, until the FA Cup quarterfinal at Middlesbrough, when he told the supporters who were barracking him that they were not doing the club any favours, as the Daily Mail highlighted.
Benitez has since guided the Blues into Champions League qualification and the Europa League trophy, which is a pretty good way of responding to his critics in the Chelsea crowd.
Most bizarre moment of the season
There were a number of candidates for this award through the 2012-13 Premier League campaign.
Southampton midfielder Jason Puncheon being caught short by a call of nature during a televised match against Everton prompted a very funny chant from the home supporters. We can't repeat ourselves, but fortunately YouTube can help.
However, the winner of the most bizarre moment of the season has to be....Luis Suarez.
The Liverpool striker and Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic had taken a few nibbles at each other during the mouth-watering clash at Anfield in April.
But the Uruguay international took the bait in the second half when he bit the Blues' player on the arm, as this YouTube video illustrates.
Suarez apologised for his actions after the match, as BBC Sport reported, but was still banned for 10 matches over the offence.
The incident did little harm to Ivanovic, who went on to score the winning goal for Chelsea in the Europa League final against Benfica on Wednesday.
Kings of Wembley
Bradford City are not a Premier League team, but their giant-killing acts against Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa propelled the team toward a Capital One Cup final date with Swansea City at Wembley in February.
The Bantams were well beaten in that final, as Phil Parkinson's side were torn apart in a 5-0 victory for Michael Laudrup's side.
However, Bradford made their return to Wembley on Saturday and ensured there was no repeat of that defeat with a comfortable 3-0 win over Northampton Town to earn promotion to League One next season.
Bleacher Report's Premier League coverage has been nominated in the 2012-13 EPLTalk awards. Cast your vote here.
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