Ronaldo puts United on the brink

Manchester United are 90 minutes from defending their title.

Michael Carrick completes the rout at Old Trafford [AFP]

A ten-man Manchester United beat West Ham 4-1 with two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo to put one hand on the English Premier League title.

United moved three points clear at the top with 84 points and a game left to play.

United’s only rival Chelsea has 81 points with a game in hand and plays Newcastle on Monday.

“It’s been a great day for us and we’ve got a big chance,” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said.

“Our players have been absolutely fantastic this season. We were down to 10 men today and I said to try to run the clock down, keep possession and be patient in the second half and I’m very pleased because there was a bit of tiredness.”

United and Chelsea also play in the Champions League final on May 21 in Moscow.

Also Saturday, it was: Aston Villa 0, Wigan 2; Blackburn 3, Derby 1; Fulham 2, Birmingham 0; Middlesbrough 2, Portsmouth 0; and Reading 0, Tottenham 1. Later, Bolton hosted Sunderland.

On Sunday, Arsenal hosts Everton and Manchester City is at Liverpool.

Fulham on the verge of the great escape

Fulham continued their miracle escape act when they moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this year with its win over Birmingham, pushing Reading down into the bottom three.

Fulham has 33 points for 17th place, ahead of Reading on goal difference.

Birmingham is in 19th place with 32 points, with already-relegated Derby in last place with 11 points.

Ronaldo brought his goal tally to 40 this season with goals in the third and 24th minutes.

Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick also scored for United, which played with 10 men from the 37th minute after Nani was sent off.

For Ronaldo’s first goal, he took a goal kick from Edwin van der Sar, then dribbled from the sidelines into the box to score, with his shot deflecting in off West Ham defender George McCartney.

His second was more fortuitous. Owen Hargreaves crossed the ball into the box and, as it landed on his raised thigh, Ronaldo turned to divert the ball into goal.

It was Ronaldo’s 30th league goal and 40th of the season. He was taken off in the 64th minute for Darren Fletcher.

Fulham prevail in the relegation battle [AFP]

“Cristiano has had a fantastic season and he develops all the time,” Ferguson said.

Carlos Tevez made it 3-0 in the 26th against his former club, dipping in a shot from outside the box. West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green got a hand to it, but couldn’t stop it.

West Ham pulled a goal back in the 38th through an acrobatic backward scissors kick from Dean Ashton.

Manchester United had Nani sent off in the 37th minute for headbutting West Ham defender Lucas O’Neill, who was shown a yellow card.

In an incident which did little to improve the reputation of both players O’Neill fell to the ground dramatically clutching his head, as did Nani after a moment’s reflection.

West Ham players pulled Nani’s hands from his face and lifted him upright before referee Mike Riley showed him the red card.

Despite the man disadvantage, Michael Carrick made it 4-1 for United with a long range shot that deflected in off O’Neill.

United striker Wayne Rooney watched the match from the bench. He and defender Nemanja Vidic were not in the squad because of injury.

Birmingham get the sinking feeling

At the other end of the table, Fulham’s third straight win has sparked an unlikely comeback from relegation.

Brian McBride headed in a free kick from Jimmy Bullard in the 52nd minute to put Fulham ahead, and Erik Nevland made it 2-0 in the 87th.

Fulham is at Portsmouth on the final day of the season, and Pompey will have one eye on the FA Cup final.

Reading meanwhile hasn’t won, or scored, in its last six games but plays last-place Derby in the final game of the season.

Reading dropped into the relegation zone after being defeated by Tottenham, with Robbie Keane scoring the winner for Spurs in the 16th minute after taking a cross from Darren Bent.

Wigan and Boro guarantee survival

Wigan made sure it will remain in the top flight on a bittersweet day for manager Steve Bruce, who used to manage Birmingham. Bruce left Birmingham after seven years to join Wigan in November when the Latics were 19th.

Wigan is now 14th.

Antonio Valencia scored both goals for Wigan, with a long-range shot that deflected off Wilfried Bouma into the net in the 52nd and then taking a pass from Emile Heskey to add the second in the 63rd.

Chris Riggott and Tuncay Sanli scored for Middlesbrough over Portsmouth as the Teesiders guaranteed their survival.

Riggott, who was making his first senior appearance for the club since November 11 after being recalled from a loan spell at Stoke, scored the opener in the 40th minute from a corner from Stewart Downing.

Sanli doubled the lead in the 53rd with a header on another corner from Downing.

Blackburn rallied from 1-0 down to beat Derby 2-1. Roque Santa Cruz equalised in the 45th minute on a rebound and then scored in the 77th with a header.

Jason Roberts scored Rovers’ second goal in the 47th.

Derby had gone 1-0 up when Kenny Miller ran onto a goalkick and scored past Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel in the 19th minute.

Source: News Agencies

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