Manchester United moved a step closer to clinching their first Premier League title in four years after they beat Everton and Chelsea could only draw with Bolton. On a day that saw both United and Chelsea play at the same time, an unusual occurrence these days, United had the type of day that may suggest that the title has only one destination – Old Trafford. With Ronaldo on the bench, United played with a formation that seemed to match Everton’s five man midfield, with Smith up front by himself, Rooney and Solskjaer supporting him and playing out wide, and Giggs playing more centrally. United didn’t play with their usual pace and attacking flair, and the more pedestrian pace of the first half suited Everton more, and they duly took the lead through a powerful Stubbs freekick, that took a slight deflection of Carrick, and went over a diving van der Saar, who would be disappointed not to have saved it. United failed to create much for the remainder of the first half and Everton would have fancied their chances of holding onto their slender lead for the remainder of the match, particular with the packed midfield and United not being able to carve out many opportunities. They would have been even more sure of causing an upset when they doubled their lead early in the second half, courtesy of a very impressive Manuel Fernandes. Sir Alex made his first change soon after, taking Evra off and replacing him with Richardson. United’s opening goal came from a Giggs corner, which the Everton keeper, Turner, who was only playing as Howard is ineligible to play against United, fumbled the ball into the path of O’Shea, who scored. United took control of the game from here in in, particularly when Ronaldo was brought on in place of Smith. The equaliser came from another corner, as Giggs floated the ball in and Ronaldo rose well and headed powerfully towards goal. The ball bounced and hit several defending players before Phil Neville’s attempted clearance off the line was hoofed into the roof of the net. With Chelsea and Bolton locked at 2-2 it was an opportunity for United to turn a potentially disastrous day into a decisive one, in the context of the destination of the title. United went looking for the goal that would give them the lead for the first time in the match. And the goal came from the most likely of sources, Wayne Rooney. Rooney had been booed with every touch for the duration of the match, both as an ex Everton player, and for his feud with Everton manager David Moyes. The goal was one of class and skill, as he controlled a cross, took it past the defenders and finished, in seemingly one movement. It was his 23 goal of the season as he has almost unnoticed gone past Ronaldo as United’s leading scorer. With twelve minutes to go the result was no longer in doubt. The icing on the cake came from Chris Eagles in the last minute, as he was put through, and with steadied composure, curled the ball past Turner, into the bottom corner. The manner of United’s win, to come back from 2-0 down, away from home, in the closing matches of the season, was celebrated by the players as if the title had just been won. It hasn’t, but United are within touching distance. After Chelsea’s draw with Bolton, United are now five points clear with three games left. Their vastly superior goal difference over Chelsea means that they effectively have a six point lead. One more win may be enough to secure the title for United, and with Milan to come in the week, and having already booked a place in the FA Cup final, the dream of a second treble is almost tangible.
United Close In