United move four points clear

Hernandez brace inspires league leaders Manchester United to tighten grip on English Premier League title race.

    United's Mexican striker Javier Hernandez gets acquainted with the Wigan defence [AFP]

    Manchester United opened up a four-point lead at the top of the English Premier League with a dominant 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

    Mexican international Javier Hernandez scored twice before late goals from Wayne Rooney and substitute Fabio Da Silva gave the league leaders a comfortable win.

    Edwin van der Sar, serving out his last season for United, put in a heroic performance by making a string of spectacular saves, with Wigan’s Victor Moses, Ben Watson and Maynor Figueroa all frustrated by the 40-year-old former Netherlands goalkeeper, who was making his 250th United appearance.

    With 11 matches to play, United have 60 points. Arsenal are on 56 while third-placed Manchester City, who host Fulham on Sunday, are on 49.

    Hernandez start

    After United drew a blank in the midweek 0-0 European Champions League draw with Olympique Marseille, manager Alex Ferguson restored Mexican international Hernandez to the line-up alongside Wayne Rooney, with Dimitar Berbatov relegated to the bench.

    On a day when the five sides below United were not playing, including second-placed Arsenal, who face Birmingham City in the League Cup final on Sunday, Hernandez justified his selection with his eighth and nine league goals of the season.

    "To win 4-0 away from home at a place like Wigan is very good, especially as it's a new pitch (at the DW Stadium) and Wigan were committed, particularly early on," Ferguson said.

    "We have a big week ahead and it's a good start," added the Scot, whose side play away at fifth-placed Chelsea on Tuesday and then travel to Anfield to play bitter rivals Liverpool next Sunday.

    Wigan, who are second from bottom in the standings and a point from safety, will feel hard done by the scoreline after making a bright start.

    Colombian striker Hugo Rodallega saw his fifth minute snap shot fly over the bar before Moses used his pace to get behind the United defence and deliver a low centre across the six-yard area.

    Pressure

    Results & fixtures

    Saturday February 26

     Villa 4-1 Blackburn
     Everton 2-0 Sund'land
     Newcastle 1-1 Bolton
     Wigan 0-4 Man Utd
     Wolves 4-0 Blackpool

    Sunday February 27

     West Ham v Liverpool
     Man City v Fulham

    However, United soaked up the pressure and hit the hosts on the break, Hernandez pouncing after Nani had charged down the left wing to deliver a cross.

    Wigan were much better than their position suggests and Van der Sar, who had already saved well to deny Moses, produced a fabulous stop to keep out Watson from close range.

    Nani was prevented from making it 2-0 by the woodwork before half-time and, in an entertaining game, man-of-the-match Van der Sar denied Figueroa a rare goal in the 48th minute on the Honduras international's 100th Premier League appearance.

    United finished strongly with Hernandez putting the game out of sight 16 minutes from time with a composed finish after being sent clear by Wayne Rooney, who had earlier been involved in an off-the-ball incident with Wigan midfielder James McCarthy.

    Berbatov came off the bench to set up the third goal for Rooney, before Fabio made it 4-0 in the 87th, two minutes after coming in as a substitute.

    In other games, Wolverhampton Wanderers moved off the foot of the table and out of the bottom three by thrashing 10-man Blackpool 4-0 at Molineux.

    Sylvan Ebanks-Blake scored twice for Wolves, who made their extra man count after Blackpool's leading scorer DJ Campbell sent off just before half-time.

    In other games, Jermaine Beckford scored twice to give Everton a much-needed 2-0 win at home to Sunderland and Ashley Young also netted two as Aston Villa won 4-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers, who had defender Ryan Nelsen sent off.

    Newcastle United and Bolton drew 1-1.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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