Premier League – United close in on title with derby win


Manchester United continued their march towards the Premier League title with a comfortable 2-0 win over local rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford.

FOOTBALL 2008-2009 Premier League Manchester United Carlos Tevez - 0

The holders now need just four points from their final three games – against Wigan, Arsenal and Hull City – to retain the trophy for a third consecutive year.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez did the damage for the hosts, both netting before half-time to settle the 140th league derby between the two old enemies – and ensure United fans can hold their heads high in the city over the summer months.

But more important than mere bragging rights was the result, which saw United reclaim top spot by going three points clear of Liverpool with a further game in hand.

Ronaldo, who was furious at his later substitution, opened the scoring with a trademark free-kick on 19 minutes before Tevez made it two in the final minute of the first half.

Tevez dominated pre-match talk, the Argentinian having reportedly resigned himself to a summer exit from Old Trafford, but he was preferred, alongside Dimitar Berbatov, to Wayne Rooney, who started on the bench.

An unchanged City side held their own in terms of possession during the opening exchanges but with Felipe Caicedo playing a lone striker’s role – albeit supported by a midfield trident of Robinho, Stephen Ireland and Elano – forays into United’s penalty area were limited.

United’s back line, again marshalled impeccably by Nemanja Vidic, were able to keep the visitors at bay and Edwin van der Sar in the United goal enjoyed a relatively comfortable afternoon.

The Dutchman’s opposite number Shay Given had no such luck. Park Ji-Sung had already signalled United’s intentions with a dragged shot wide of the mark on three minutes before City’s number one was forced into action to keep out a speculative Tevez effort.

Like Tevez, Ronaldo was also in the mood and the Portuguese got the better of Micah Richards soon after to cut inside and fire goalwards. Again Given had to be alert to keep the score goalless.

But there was nothing the Irishman could do on 18 minutes as Ronaldo stepped up to take a free-kick, 30 yards out, after Ireland had been penalised for a challenge on the breaking Berbatov.

Ronaldo let fly with a typically powerful shot, but it was a slight deflection off Vincent Kompany in the City wall that ended up outfoxing Given; the keeper was wrong-footed by the touch and failed to recover as the ball flew into the bottom corner.

The goal gave United even more confidence to go forward in search of a second, and Tevez very nearly did on 31 minutes, the Argentine’s brilliant curling effort thundering back off the upright with Given well-beaten.

Tevez was not to be denied though, and just before the half-time break, he doubled United’s lead with a similar effort, this time the ball cannoning into the back of the net after having rattled the frame of the goal.

At two-nil up, the champions looked in complete control, although Robinho wasted a great chance to get City back into the game soon after the break.

The Brazilian, who along with Elano worked hard all afternoon, was played in on goal by his compatriot but could only slice his shot into the stands behind the United goal.

Van der Sar was finally called into action in the 86th minute, substitute Martin Petrov testing the Dutchman to his limit with a fine strike from 20 yards, but otherwise, City disappointed as an attacking force.

At the other end, Tevez could easily have registered a double in the dying moments, but his point-blank header from the excellent Darren Fletcher‘s flick-on struck an upright.

In the end, he had to settle for just the one. Still, that was enough to delight the home crowd, who urged Alex Ferguson to end the speculation and sign him on a permanent basis throughout the 90 minutes.

With the season drawing to a close, United fans, and Tevez himself, will not have to wait long for a conclusion to the saga.

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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