MAN UNITED 2, EVERTON 0
Manchester United took another giant step towards wrestling the Barclays Premier League title back from neighbours City.
The win against Everton, coupled with City’s surprise defeat at Southampton the previous day, saw the Reds extend their lead at the top to an impressive 12 points.
Goals from Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie ensured there were no slip ups liked last April when Everton’s 4-4 draw at Old Trafford – United were 4-2 ahead with eight minutes left – cost United a 20th league title.
This time United were rarely troubled after a workmanlike and disciplined display against the Toffees.
And Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that City’s defeat at Southampton influenced his team selection to play Everton as he originally intended to make seven changes as he was looking ahead to Wednesday’s Champions League game at Real Madrid.
He said: “It doesn’t matter what happens to City as we have to concentrate on winning our own games.
“As soon as I saw the result at Southampton, I saw it an opportunity to get a comfortable lead. I scrapped my original team and only made four changes.
“We can make changes later in the season.”
Ferguson added there was a steely determination from his players not to slip up in the latter stages with the players mindful of last year’s “bad experience” against the Merseysiders.
Striker van Persie ought to have added to his total of 22 goals for the season when he sprang Everton’s offside trap early on and rounded keeper Tim Howard before seeing his angled shot strike an upright.
The breakthrough came in the 13tm minute when Giggs maintained his record of having scored in each Premier League season – in fact it was his 23rd consecutive season in which he has found the net in the league.
Antonio Valencia and van Persie linked with the latter squaring a pass to Giggs whose shot from 12 yard went in off the upright.
Everton had their first clear-cut chance midway through the half when Leon Osman’s drive from outside the box forced a fine diving save from David De Gea.
Dutchman van Persie eventually scored his 23rd goal of the campaign on the stroke of half time as he beat the offside trap running on to Rafael’s through ball before rounding Howard and slotting home despite the best efforts of John Heitinga to clear the ball on the line.
After a lack-lustre opening to the second period, the match exploded to life midway through the period.
Jonny Evans had three chances in the space of seconds from van Persie’s corner. Two were saved by Howard, the third blocked on the line by Nikica Jelavic.
Then moments later Howard pulled off a brilliant reflex save to turn over a drive from Tom Cleverley.
United could have added a third goal, but van Persie slid his shot wide after being set by Giggs.
Everton were almost gifted a late consolation goal after a mistake by substitute Chris Smalling, but De Gea saved the day to deny Jelavic.