Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to 12 points with a routine victory over Everton at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side took full advantage of champions Manchester City slipping up at Southampton on Saturday evening to open up a commanding gap as they go in search of their 20th title.
United made few concessions to Wednesday's last-16 Champions League meeting with Real Madrid in The Bernabeu as a strong starting line-up closed out another crucial win with few alarms.
"That'll do it for Manchester United. What a weekend they've had. 12 games to go, 12 points clear and it is almost impossible to envisage them throwing this away. It is becoming a procession to the Premier League title."
Real coach Jose Mourinho watched from Old Trafford's directors' box as Ryan Giggs scored for the 23rd successive top-flight season to give United an early lead and Robin van Persie added his 23rd goal of the season just before half-time.
Everton never looked likely to repeat last season's feat of clawing back a two-goal deficit to draw 4-4 at Old Trafford. That was a comeback that fatally damaged United's title chances but this time they never seriously threatened such a shock.
Manager David Moyes suffered a setback just before kick-off when experienced defender Sylvain Distin pulled out with a virus after feeling unwell in the warm-up, forcing the Scot to draft in John Heitinga after he struggled so badly in the 3-3 draw against Aston Villa.
United should have taken an early lead when the pair combined to open up Everton's readjusted rearguard. Wayne Rooney played in Van Persie, who rounded Everton keeper Tim Howard but proved his fallibility by striking the outside of an upright from the angle.
- Ryan Giggs has now scored in each of the 21 Premier League seasons.
- This was Giggs' seventh goal v Everton in the Premier League. He's only scored more against Tottenham (10).
- Van Persie has now netted six right-footed goals this season, only last season (12) has he netted more in a league campaign.
- Having scored in 18 consecutive games, Everton have now failed to score in three of their past five league games.
Everton did not survive a second time shortly after when Van Persie escaped the ponderous Heitinga in the area to set up Giggs, who scored from 12 yards via the inside of a post.
There was some hope for Everton as they enjoyed a spell of possession and Leon Osman brought a fine diving save from David De Gea with a 20-yard volley - but United struck crucially just before the interval to put the game out of reach.
Everton had played a dangerous game as Van Persie was caught narrowly offside on a number of occasions but there was no flag to rescue the Merseysiders as he raced on to Rafael's pass, evaded Howard once more and scored despite Heitinga's best efforts on the line.
The second half meandered tamely until the 65th minute when United's Jonny Evans was blocked three times in a goalmouth scramble, twice by Howard, who then saved spectacularly from Tom Cleverley.
It had been a relatively subdued affair but there was a burst of action as Van Persie screwed an effort wide at one end then Everton substitute Nikica Jelavic's low shot brought De Gea into the action.
Old Trafford was emptying long before referee Mark Halsey's final whistle and this increasingly looks like the weekend when United took an unassailable lead over their title rivals.
Everton manager David Moyes:
"It is only our fourth league defeat this season and I would say it is the only game where a better team has beaten us. We have got Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar, who we really rely on - and people like Leighton Baines - and we are asking a really big shift of these players because we can't change the team around too much.
"People talk about Everton starting slowly and having a good half a season not a full one and maybe that's because we are asking a small number of players to do that for a full season. But these lads have done brilliantly and we are still in a really good position.
"If you had given me two draws against Manchester United and two points I would have said that that was good but we have taken three points off them so that's even better although we are obviously disappointed we lost today.
"I think 12 points to make up [for Manchester City] against a club like Manchester United is a big gap. Football doesn't always go the way it is meant to but that does look like a big gap. It is difficult to predict what will happen in football but it is a big thing to be that amount of points behind at this time of the season."
- 01 De Gea
- 02 Rafael
- 03 Evra
- 04 Jones (Carrick - 56' )
- 06 Evans (Smalling - 81' )
- 15 Vidic
- 07 Valencia
- 11 Giggs
- 23 Cleverley
- 10 Rooney
- 20 Van Persie
- 40 Amos
- 12 Smalling
- 08 Anderson
- 16 Carrick
- 17 Nani
- 14 Hernandez
- 19 Welbeck
- 24 Howard
- 03 Baines
- 05 Heitinga
- 06 Jagielka
- 18 Neville
- 04 Gibson
- 21 Osman
- 22 Pienaar
- 25 Fellaini Booked
- 11 Mirallas Booked (Naismith - 70' )
- 28 Anichebe (Jelavic - 57' )
- 01 Mucha
- 26 Stones
- 34 Duffy
- 08 Oviedo
- 16 Hitzlsperger
- 07 Jelavic
- 14 Naismith
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.89:36
Corner from right by-line taken by Leighton Baines. The referee penalises Phil Neville for handball. David De Gea takes the free kick.89:03
Rafael Da Silva concedes a free kick for a foul on Steven Naismith. Leighton Baines restarts play with the free kick.86:53
The ball is swung over by Phil Neville, Nemanja Vidic makes a clearance.85:40
Short corner taken by Wayne Rooney.84:52
Direct free kick taken by Rafael Da Silva.84:52 Booking
Booking Marouane Fellaini receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.84:42
Marouane Fellaini concedes a free kick for a foul on Tom Cleverley.83:12
Marouane Fellaini concedes a free kick for a foul on Robin van Persie. Free kick taken by David De Gea.81:43
Darron Gibson takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Robin van Persie.81:09
Nikica Jelavic takes a shot. Save by David De Gea.80:17 Substitution
Substitution (Man Utd) makes a substitution, with Chris Smalling coming on for Jonny Evans.80:02
Shot by Robin van Persie from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.76:23
Leon Osman takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.74:38
Wayne Rooney concedes a free kick for a foul on Leon Osman. Free kick taken by Darron Gibson.71:39
The assistant referee signals for offside against Nikica Jelavic. Free kick taken by David De Gea.71:05
Corner taken by Robin van Persie from the right by-line, save by Tim Howard.70:57
Centre by Ryan Giggs, blocked by Darron Gibson.69:01 Substitution
Substitution Kevin Mirallas goes off and Steven Naismith comes on.67:48
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Leighton Baines.
Robin van Persie takes the inswinging corner, Tim Howard makes a save.67:01
Tom Cleverley takes a shot. Save made by Tim Howard.66:47
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line.66:26
Jonny Evans takes a shot. Tim Howard makes a save.65:51
Jonny Evans takes a shot. Save made by Tim Howard.64:51
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie from the right by-line to the near post.59:58
Leon Osman fouled by Rafael Da Silva, the ref awards a free kick. Tim Howard takes the direct free kick.58:06
Wayne Rooney challenges Phil Neville unfairly and gives away a free kick. Tim Howard restarts play with the free kick.57:50
Ryan Giggs takes a shot. Darron Gibson gets a block in.57:10
Robin van Persie fouled by Johnny Heitinga, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Jonny Evans.56:11 Substitution
Substitution Nikica Jelavic comes on in place of Victor Anichebe.55:53 Substitution
Substitution Michael Carrick joins the action as a substitute, replacing Phil Jones.52:38
Phil Neville crosses the ball.51:37
Antonio Valencia concedes a free kick for a foul on Leighton Baines. Direct free kick taken by Johnny Heitinga.45:01
The game restarts for the second half.45:00 +2:23 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.45:00 +0:05
Rafael Da Silva provided the assist for the goal.45:00 +0:05 Goal scored
Goal! - Robin van Persie - Man Utd 2 - 0 Everton Goal scored by Robin van Persie from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man Utd 2-0 Everton.44:26
The official flags Robin van Persie offside. Johnny Heitinga restarts play with the free kick.43:56
The ball is delivered by Patrice Evra, save made by Tim Howard.43:47
The ball is swung over by Rafael Da Silva, Phil Neville manages to make a clearance.43:28
The ball is sent over by Tom Cleverley, clearance made by Phil Jagielka.42:58
Marouane Fellaini challenges Phil Jones unfairly and gives away a free kick. David De Gea takes the direct free kick.42:21
Tom Cleverley concedes a free kick for a foul on Leon Osman. Direct free kick taken by Johnny Heitinga.41:45
The offside flag is raised against Robin van Persie. Tim Howard takes the free kick.40:39
Shot from just outside the area by Leon Osman misses to the left of the target.39:26
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Phil Neville by Wayne Rooney. The ball is crossed by Kevin Mirallas, Marouane Fellaini takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.38:21
Handball decision goes against Robin van Persie. Free kick taken by Johnny Heitinga.37:02
Wayne Rooney delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, clearance by Darron Gibson.37:02 Booking
Booking Booking for Kevin Mirallas for unsporting behaviour.36:57
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kevin Mirallas on Tom Cleverley.34:08
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Antonio Valencia by Johnny Heitinga. Jonny Evans restarts play with the free kick.32:42
Ryan Giggs concedes a free kick for a foul on Steven Pienaar. Darron Gibson takes the free kick.31:55
The referee blows for offside against Robin van Persie. Indirect free kick taken by Phil Jagielka.29:22
Darron Gibson takes a shot. Blocked by Tom Cleverley.29:20
Kevin Mirallas takes a shot. Nemanja Vidic gets a block in.28:54
Corner taken by Leighton Baines.28:36
Effort on goal by Leon Osman from 18 yards. David De Gea makes a save.26:29
Rafael Da Silva fouled by Leighton Baines, the ref awards a free kick. David De Gea restarts play with the free kick.25:59
Unfair challenge on Steven Pienaar by Phil Jones results in a free kick. Leon Osman restarts play with the free kick.25:25
Steven Pienaar is adjudged to have handled the ball. Jonny Evans takes the free kick.24:37
Free kick awarded for a foul by Phil Jones on Leon Osman. Johnny Heitinga takes the direct free kick.24:08
Leon Osman takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.22:32
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Robin van Persie.21:01
Corner taken by Leighton Baines from the right by-line, Nemanja Vidic manages to make a clearance.19:13
Effort on goal by Phil Jones from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.14:34
Foul by Wayne Rooney on Leighton Baines, free kick awarded. Johnny Heitinga restarts play with the free kick.12:46
Assist by Robin van Persie.12:46 Goal scored
Goal! - Ryan Giggs - Man Utd 1 - 0 Everton Ryan Giggs scores a goal from inside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man Utd 1-0 Everton.11:46
Unfair challenge on Phil Jones by Kevin Mirallas results in a free kick. Robin van Persie delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing, clearance made by Darron Gibson.9:55
Corner from the right by-line taken by Robin van Persie, save by Tim Howard.9:31
Robin van Persie has an effort at goal from deep inside the area striking the post.7:24
Steven Pienaar fouled by Patrice Evra, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Phil Neville.5:59
The assistant referee signals for offside against Antonio Valencia. Phil Jagielka restarts play with the free kick.5:40
Steven Pienaar takes a shot. Tom Cleverley gets a block in.4:51
Corner from the right by-line taken by Leighton Baines, clearance made by Nemanja Vidic.3:56
Effort from outside the penalty box by Wayne Rooney goes wide right of the target.1:28
Darron Gibson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Wayne Rooney. Wayne Rooney delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, save by Tim Howard.1:04
The ball is crossed by Ryan Giggs, clearance by Leon Osman.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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