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Season review: England

Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013, 10.00CET
Manchester United FC reclaimed the Premier League title as Sir Alex Ferguson departed on a high while Wigan Athletic FC and Swansea City AFC lifted their first major honours.
Season review: England
Sir Alex Ferguson bids farewell after his last game in charge of Manchester United ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013, 10.00CET

Season review: England

Manchester United FC reclaimed the Premier League title as Sir Alex Ferguson departed on a high while Wigan Athletic FC and Swansea City AFC lifted their first major honours.

Sir Alex Ferguson ended his remarkable career, and 27 years at Old Trafford, on a high as he guided Manchester United FC to a record 20th English title, wresting the trophy off rivals Manchester City FC. It was an unsuccessful year for English sides in the UEFA Champions League with no quarter-finalist for the first time since 1996; however, Chelsea FC went all the way in the UEFA Europa League courtesy of Branislav Ivanovic's late header against SL Benfica. The domestic cups, meanwhile, allowed two clubs to write new chapters in their histories, as Wigan Athletic FC and Swansea City AFC won first major honours.

Champions: Manchester United FC
Stung by Manchester City's added-time clincher last season, Sir Alex bolstered his forward line with the summer recruitment of Robin van Persie from Arsenal FC. The Dutchman made an immediate impact, scoring within ten minutes of his home debut before topping the goals chart with 26 Premier League strikes.

After battling for supremacy with City and Chelsea throughout the opening months, United's 3-2 victory at their derby rivals in early December put them in a position from which they did not look back. Following that success at the City of Manchester Stadium, Ferguson's men went 15 games unbeaten, and a 3-0 win against Aston Villa FC clinched the championship with four matches to spare – providing a fitting stage from which the 71-year-old manager could depart. 

Cup final: Manchester City FC 0-1 Wigan Athletic FC
With their league crown lost and after an early exit from the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup presented a last chance for Roberto Mancini's squad to claim silverware. Having seen off Chelsea in the semi-finals, the Manchester club simply had to dispose of relegation-bound Wigan Athletic in the Wembley showpiece to lift the trophy for a second time in three years. However, with a first major honour in their sights, Wigan ran the favourites ragged, with young winger Callum McManaman outstanding. Ben Watson's added-time header completed the fairy tale for Roberto Martínez's Latics.

European places*
Manchester United FC — UEFA Champions League, group stage
Manchester City FC — UEFA Champions League, group stage
Chelsea FC — UEFA Champions League, group stage
Arsenal FC — UEFA Champions League, play-off
Tottenham Hotspur FC — UEFA Europa League, group stage
Swansea City AFC — UEFA Europa League, group stage
Wigan Athletic FC — UEFA Europa League, group stage

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur FC)
Tottenham missed out on a UEFA Champions League play-off place by a point, but that margain would have been much greater without the outstanding Wales forward. Seen solely as a winger before this campaign, the 23-year-old stepped up his game once more, playing centrally or down either flank to pose a constant threat to opposition defences.

©AFP/Getty Images

Bale has had an impressive season

With Spurs' attacking resources limited by injuries to Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, Bale assumed the goalscoring responsibilities, hitting 21 in the Premier League to trail only Van Persie and Luis Suárez. It was not just the number of goals that caught the eye, but the style in which he scored them. He rifled in countless efforts from range and important match-winning strikes, often in the dying moments of games.

One to watch: Callum McManaman (Wigan Athletic FC)
Given he had featured only as a substitute in the Premier League until 17 March, when he made his full debut in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United FC, very few would have predicted McManaman's stock being so high come the end of term. However, his thrilling displays in Wigan's FA Cup triumph – notably against boyhood team Everton FC in the quarter-finals and against City in the final – earned the winger a call-up to Stuart Pearce's squad for June's UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Israel. At this rate of development, the 22-year-old will be menacing defences for years to come.

Surprise package: Bradford City AFC
The side that beat Bradford in February's League Cup final, Swansea City, would be many people's surprise team of 2012/13 as they lifted a first trophy and played some fine football under Michael Laudrup to finish ninth in the Premier League. However, fourth-division Bradford's run to the Wembley showcase was the stuff dreams are made of.

In steady decline since dropping out of the top tier in 2001, the Yorkshire club captured the public imagination by overcoming Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa FC en route to the final. And if their eventual 5-0 defeat in the showpiece suggested an unhappy ending to the adventure, Phil Parkinson's men used their momentum to earn promotion to the third tier – returning to Wembley to beat Northampton Town FC in a play-off decider.

Leading scorer: Robin van Persie, Manchester United FC (26)

Relegated: Wigan Athletic FC, Reading FC, Queens Park Rangers FC

Promoted: Cardiff City FC, Hull City AFC, Crystal Palace FC.

Number: 49
The number of trophies won by Sir Alex during his 41-year managerial career, including two UEFA Champions Leagues, 13 English Premier League titles and five FA Cups. 

"August 17." Ferguson responds to a query asking when he knew the title was safe. That was the day Van Persie signed on the dotted line at Old Trafford, three days before the season began.

Last updated: 28/05/13 20.37CET