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Giggs on target as United scent 20th league title

Ryan Giggs (left) scores Manchester United’s opener in their 2-0 win over Everton yesterday.

Ryan Giggs (left) scores Manchester United’s opener in their 2-0 win over Everton yesterday.

Ryan Giggs demonstrated his enduring value to Manchester United with the opening goal in a ruthless 2-0 home win over Everton yesterday that put his side almost out of sight in the Premier League title race.

The 39-year-old Welshman slotted his side in front after 13 minutes to continue his extraordinary feat of having scored in every Premier League season since the competition started 21 years ago.

Robin van Persie was also on target for United – his 19th goal of the season – before half-time as the leaders took full advantage of champions Manchester City’s shock 3-1 defeat at Southampton on Saturday.

With 12 games remaining Alex Ferguson’s side have 65 points, 12 more than City, and are closing in on a 20th league title.

“We’ve got to win our games regardless of what happens with City and if we concentrate on our own games we’ll be okay,” Ferguson, whose side face a huge Champions League match away to Real Madrid on Wednesday, told Sky Sports.

“I was going to make about seven changes for the game but when I saw yesterday’s result I changed that because we knew if we got a result it would put us in a fantastic position.”

A remarkable 4-4 draw with Everton in the final weeks of last season’s title race proved United’s undoing as City pipped them on the final day on goal difference.

This time, however, there were no slip-ups from Ferguson’s side as they recorded a 10th consecutive home league win.

Despite the proximity of the trip to Madrid, Ferguson resisted any temptation to rest key players – a mark of respect for an Everton side chasing a top-four finish and who beat United on the opening day of the season on Merseyside.

With Real manager Jose Mourinho watching in the stands, United produced a clinical performance, even if leading striker Van Persie was guilty of an astonishing miss early on when he took the ball past Everton keeper Tim Howard but blasted his shot against the outside of the post.

“You have to remember your bad experiences and that was one last year,” Ferguson said. “We showed a steely determination this time.”

With their next five league games all against bottom-half clubs, United could have the title all but wrapped up when they host Manchester City on April 6 but Giggs knows that there is no room for complacency.

“I think we’ve got enough experience in there but you never take anything for granted,” Giggs said.

At the other end of the table, Aston Villa claimed a vital 2-1 home victory over West Ham to move out of the bottom three, Christian Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia the scorers.

Villa’s first league win for nearly two months was a welcome relief for manager Paul Lambert whose side climbed above Reading into 17th place, although Ashley Westwood’s late own goal meant he had to endure a nail-biting finale.

Summaries

Man. United 2
Giggs 13; Van Persie 45;
Everton 0

HT: 2-0. Att: 75,525.

Aston Villa 2
Benteke 74 pen; N’Zogbia 79;
West Ham 1
Westwood 87 og;

HT: 0-0. Att: 30,503.

  P W D L F A Pts
Man. United 26 21 2 3 62 31 65
Man. City 26 15 8 3 48 24 53
Chelsea 26 14 7 5 55 28 49
Tottenham 26 14 6 6 44 30 48
Arsenal 26 12 8 6 50 29 44
Everton 26 10 12 4 40 32 42
Swansea 26 9 10 7 38 29 37
Liverpool 25 9 9 7 44 32 36
West Brom 25 10 4 11 34 35 34
Stoke City 26 7 12 7 26 31 33
West Ham 26 8 6 12 29 38 30
Fulham 26 7 8 11 36 42 29
Sunderland 26 7 8 11 28 34 29
Norwich City 26 6 11 9 25 40 29
Southampton 26 6 9 11 36 45 27
Newcastle 26 7 6 13 34 46 27
Aston Villa 26 5 9 12 25 50 24
Reading 26 5 8 13 33 48 23
Wigan 26 5 6 15 30 51 21
QPR 26 2 11 13 19 41 17

Playing today
Liverpool vs West Brom - 21.00

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