May 13 2012
Manchester United hearts were broken as a 20th league title was snatched from their grasp despite a 1-0 victory at Sunderland.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side knew victory would count for nothing unless QPR were able to ensure their survival by nicking a point off Manchester City. United stuck to their side of the bargain as Wayne Rooney's 20th-minute header proved enough for victory, but could do nothing as City came from behind to win 3-2 in stoppage time to secure a first title since 1968.
United might have won significantly more comfortably on the day had it not been for the woodwork and Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet, but they could have emerged with just a point after they failed to dispatch Sunderland with old boy Fraizer Campbell passing up a glorious opportunity to level.
For much of the opening 45 minutes, there was little doubt about how events would unfold on Wearside with the visitors dominating for long periods and creating enough chances to have the points sewn up by the time the whistle sounded for the break.
In the event, they led by a single goal, courtesy of Rooney's close-range header from full-back Phil Jones' cross. The England striker might have claimed a hat-trick inside 14 minutes, but he saw his free-kick come back off the crossbar and then miskicked with the goal at his mercy four minutes later.
Sunderland's best chance fell to Campbell as he ran on to Stephane Sessegnon's 36th-minute cross, but to the relief of Ferguson, the man who sold him to Sunderland, he steered his volley wide of the post.
United returned after the interval determined to kill off the game as quickly as possible, and might have done so within two minutes when Antonio Valencia slid Rooney in only for Mignolet to deny him with a brave block. But the fans behind the Belgian's goal were celebrating within seconds when news of QPR's equaliser sparked a delirious reaction.
Jones glanced a 50th-minute header just wide and Ashley Young tested Mignolet at his near post with a driven cross with the tension rising, although there were joyous scenes on the terraces when the travelling fans heard QPR had remarkably gone 2-1 up at City.
United were unfortunate not to increase their lead with 14 minutes remaining when Paul Scholes smashed a volley against the foot of the post and Mignolet recovered superbly to tip Ryan Giggs' follow-up over the bar. But as the time ebbed away, the United fans could hardly contain themselves, hoping no news from the blue half of the city was good news.
Rooney clipped the outside of the post with a last-minute free-kick and the partying was just about to start when the worst possible news arrived for those of a red persuasion.