The king is dead, long live the king…well not quite, but this season saw the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s long and successful reign as Manchester United boss.
The 2012/13 campaign will undoubtedly go down as a landmark season in Manchester United’s history as they claimed an unprecedented 20th league title.
It marked the end of an era as Sir Alex announced his retirement, chief executive David Gill moved on and a number of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ hung up their boots.
Old Trafford legends Paul Scholes and David Beckham called it quits while the Red Devils prepared for their first managerial appointment in almost 27 years – Ferguson’s choice, Everton boss David Moyes.
Here is MM’s review of what proved to be an eventful season for Ferguson’s side.
Summer 2012 saw eight United players head to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine as Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones and Ashley Young witnessed Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions crash out in the quarter-finals on penalties.
Rooney – whose suspension sparked much debate – and Welbeck bagged a goal each, while Jones failed to make it off the bench and Young was among the players to miss a penalty in the shoot-out loss to Italy.
Elsewhere, goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard did not feature for Denmark, Patrice Evra faced England in the group opener but was not picked again while Nani helped Portugal to the semi-finals, where they were dumped out by eventual winners Spain.
Former England striker Michael Owen was allowed to leave Old Trafford while Ferguson announced the signing of Borussia Dortmund and Japanese play-maker Shinji Kagawa, Premier League player of the year Robin van Persie and youngsters Alexander Buttner and Angelo Henriquez.
The Scot was widely rumoured to be in the market for Brazilian international Lucas Moura but lost out to moneybags Paris Saint Germain, who snapped up the wonderkid for a cool £36.5million.
United completed pre-season trips to South Africa and China including victory over Didier Drogba’s Shanghai Shenhua.
Van Persie came off the bench to make his United debut at Goodison Park, but the £24million man could not stop the Reds slumping to an opening-day defeat against Everton.
The Dutchman opened his account for the club the following Saturday as Ferguson’s outfit beat Martin Jol’s Fulham.
A van Persie inspired United went from strength to strength in September, recording five straight victories before Tottenham Hotspur’s first win in 23 years at Old Trafford condemned Ferguson’s side to a second defeat of the season.
Paul Scholes marked his 700th appearance for the club with a goal as United put four past a lacklustre Wigan Athletic, while Buttner opened the scoring with a debut goal.
A week later United visited Anfield, shortly after the independent Hillsborough panel published its findings, casting doubt over the original inquest ruling.
Ferguson wrote a letter to all United supporters attending the game, asking them to ensure the rivalry did not cross into ‘personal hatred’.
Both sets of fans paid tribute to the 96 victims, while Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez put last season’s ‘Handshakegate’ behind them by observing the pre-match pleasantries.
United’s flawless October was only upset by Chelsea, who put them out of the Capital One Cup Fourth Round in a nine-goal thriller marred with controversy as a home fan was pictured aiming monkey gestures at United striker Welbeck – the pictures flew around twitter and Gavin Kirkham, 28, was arrested.
Convincing wins over Newcastle and Chelsea in the league were overshadowed as the latter accused referee Mark Clattenburg of using inappropriate language towards Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel – he was later cleared of all charges.
The month ended on a positive note for Ferguson however, as the 71-year-old was named Premier League Manager of the Month for an incredible 27th time.
Victory against Braga saw United qualify for the Champions League knockout, while wins over Arsenal, Aston Villa, QPR and West Ham made them favourites for a 20th league title.
Van Persie netted to help sink his former club, Arsenal, and complete the record of scoring against every current Premier League club – only Yakubu beat him to the feat.
A European trip to Turkey made the headlines for the wrong reasons – Galatasaray fans met United at the airport with reminders of their infamous ‘Welcome to Hell’ greeting in 1993.
United also unveiled a bronze statue of Ferguson on the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand with club legends Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Peter Schmeichel and Dwight Yorke visiting Old Trafford to witness the special event.
The month concluded in relief for United’s rearguard as an unusually leaky defence ended an 11-game run without a clean sheet against West Ham at Old Trafford.
The Reds’ dramatic season continued into December, when their trip to Reading’s Madejski Stadium produced seven goals in the first 35 minutes.
United came out on top as the lethal pairing of Rooney and van Persie once again hauled United out of a tricky situation, with three goals between them.
Van Persie was once again the hero as United extended their lead at the top of the Premier League with an emotionally-charged last-gasp derby win at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
However, unpleasant scenes after the game marred the occasion, when a supporter struck Rio Ferdinand with a coin and another had to be forced off the pitch by City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
United had it all to play for as they entered the new year on top of the Premier League and in the last 16 of the Champions League.
It was New Year cheer for Sir Alex as United ended the Scot’s 71st birthday celebrations with a flashy 4-0 performance against Wigan Athletic.
A close escape in the FA Cup followed – thanks to Ryan Giggs and van Persie combining for an injury-time wonder goal against West Ham United – before Rooney secured a fourth round berth in the replay.
The Red Devils edged out Liverpool in the Premier League but were denied all three points at Tottenham Hotspur as Clint Dempsey hit a deserved late leveller.
However, January provided few hiccups in the end, with Fulham the next to fall in the FA Cup and a win against Southampton restoring a seven-point lead over City.
A clean sweep of February’s Premier League fixtures established a 15-point gap at the top of table, while a place in FA Cup quarter finals was assured after a win over Reading.
Perhaps the most enduring victory for United fans was against Queens Park Rangers, in which Rafael hit a breathtaking half-volley and Giggs scored on his 999th senior appearance.
But a mouth-watering Champions League tie against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu stole the headlines.
United bagged a crucial away goal through Longsight-born Welbeck, though ex-Red Devil Cristiano Ronaldo popped up to net in his first competitive appearance against his old club.
In the first of many goodbyes at Old Trafford in 2013, David Gill announced he would leave his post in the summer to be replaced by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward.
Kagawa stamped his mark on English football with a stunning hat-trick against Norwich City to open March.
The home leg against Madrid awaited and, a goal up with nearly an hour gone, the Red Devils were in the ascendancy.
A high boot by Nani on Alvaro Arbeloa, however, prompted referee Cuneyt Cakir to produce a controversial red card and turn the game on its head.
Spurs old boy Luka Modric capitalised first before Ronaldo completed the turnaround at Old Trafford to subdued celebrations from the Portugal international.
In the following FA Cup game against Chelsea, the Red Devils uncharacteristically surrendered a two-goal lead against Fergie’s old sparring partner Rafa Benitez.
Defeat to Madrid arguably took the wind out of United’s sails as the Red Devils hit a rut of indifferent form.
Chelsea dumped them out of the FA Cup on April Fools’ Day in the replay, while City were offered a glimmer of hope in the title race as a Sergio Aguero special secured victory in the Manchester derby.
But United ground out a win against Stoke City – in which van Persie ended a run of ten games without a goal – while the Dutchman struck again to grab a point against West Ham.
It was all set up for another famous night at Old Trafford as just one more triumph would see them lift the title for a record-breaking 20th time.
Aston Villa were the victims and United duly obliged, with hat-trick hero van Persie’s sumptuous volley the highlight in a night of celebration.
Though May lacked drama on the field, it was a month of whirlwind announcements – including the news every United fan dreaded to consider.
After 26 seasons, 1500 games and 49 trophies, Sir Alex finally stepped down from his United helm.
The managerial hunt ended nearly as soon as it started as David Moyes was confirmed as new manager starting from July 1.
And another part of the Old Trafford furniture in Scholes confirmed he was to hang up his boots for good after spending his whole career under the same manager.
Walking out to Frank Sinatra’s The Impossible Dream in his final home game at Old Trafford, Ferguson bade his final farewell in a heartfelt speech.
There was a classic late United winner against Swansea City as Ferdinand – who had not scored since 2008 – smashed home in front of the Stretford End.
But Ferguson’s last major headache came in the form of Rooney after the Scot revealed he handed in a transfer request some two weeks prior.
It did not dampen United’s open-top bus parade, however, as thousands flocked to Manchester city centre to celebrate Sir Alex’s last-ever trophy.
And in a fitting final Fergie flourish, the season ended in a spectacular 5-5 draw against West Bromwich Albion.
Image courtesy of BBC Sport, with thanks.