LONDON: Winning for Manchester United away to struggling Wolves was not enough. The visit to Molyneux was a perfect opportunity for United not only to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League over Manchester City but to narrow the goal difference gap – which is always worth an extra point.
United kicked off with a gd of +41 compared with City’s +49. By the time referee Anthony Taylor blew his final whistle a 5-0 victory had lifted Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to +46, apart from the small matter of moving four points clear, albeit having played a game more. Mexican Chicharito Hernandez thumped two goals.
Last Thursday’s deserved defeat by Athletic in Bilbao in the Europa League means that United, like City, have only the league title in sight. One of these two rivals will end the season with nothing – and that is a fate which has not befallen Ferguson since 2005.
Ferguson did not challenge Bilbao’s success and praised the club’s revival under Marcelo Bielsa. He, of course, had a particular appreciation of Bilbao’s heavy reliance on their own youth academy. That, after all, has been the United way.
Now the only target is to outstrip City and achieving that might well provide Ferguson with the most satisfying of all his league titles at Old Trafford (12 so far) – not least because of the 6-1 home humiliation inflicted by City last autumn.
That was United’s heaviest derby loss for 85 years, their worst defeat since 1955 and shattered their 37-game unbeaten home run in all competitions. That upset also left City five points clear of United but Ferguson’s men now have destiny back in their own hands.
Top scorer Wayne Rooney – who claimed his 27th goal of term in all competitions in defeat in Spain – certainly thinks so.
United replaced City at the top eight days ago, for the first time since October, and the England man said: “”If we can win this league then I’m sure it will be very satisfying for all the players, fans and everyone connected to the club because at one stage we weren’t expected to win the league – which is mad when you are talking about Man United.
“It’s great we are back on top and the aim is to stay there until the end of the season. There’s still a long way to go of course and we know we have to stay focused [but] we know what we have to do.”
What has to be done is both win matches and score plenty of goals – as did Jonny Evans (21 minutes), Luis Antonio Valencia (43), Danny Welbeck (45), and Chicharito Hernandez (two – 56 and 61) against a hapless Wolves side who had defender Ronaldo Zubar sent off at ‘only’ 1-0 down.
The day’s second Premier League clash brought a 1-0 win for Newcastle United over Norwich City with a 12th-minute goal from Papiss Cisse.
** Chelsea reached Wembley and the semi-finals of the FA Cup by defeating Leicester City 5-2 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea cruised to victory despite fielding an under-strength team with Wednesday’s Premier League visit to Manchester City in mind.
Gary Cahill, Salomon Kalou, Fernando Torres (two) and Raul Meireles scored Chelsea’s goals. Torres had previously gone 24 games without a goal. Chelsea will play Tottenham or Bolton in the semi-finals.
Liverpool remained on course to win both domestic cups by defeating Stoke 2-1 with a second-half from Stewart Downing. Luis Suarez opened the scoring with Peter Crouch responding for Stoke midway through the first half. They play Everton or Sunderland in the semi-finals.
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