United cruise past Fulham to go 10 clear
Manchester United enjoyed a stroll in the spring sunshine on Saturday as they eased to a 2-0 home win over Fulham to open a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
United, who host Chelsea in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, rested several first-choice players and had just the sort of undemanding afternoon they wanted as first-half goals by Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia proved decisive at Old Trafford.
United have 69 points with Arsenal, who visit Blackpool on Sunday, second on 59 with two games in hand.
Chelsea moved up to third on 58 points after a 67th-minute Florent Malouda goal was enough to beat bottom club Wigan Athletic 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City, who visit Liverpool on Monday, have 56 points, three clear of Tottenham Hotspur who beat Stoke City 3-2.
With Wayne Rooney suspended, United manager Alex Ferguson still felt able to make seven other changes from the team who won 1-0 at Chelsea in the Champions League last week.
Fulham had won one away game all season while United went into the match with 14 wins and a draw from 15 at home and those numbers proved a reliable form guide.
United went ahead after 12 minutes when Nani slid a cross into the path of Berbatov, who slotted his 22nd of the season.
Nani was the provider again after 32 minutes when his shot was deflected towards Valencia who had a simple header.
United went into cruise control, experienced striker Michael Owen had a rare run-out and they look to be closing in relentlessly on a record 19th league title.
A year ago it was Chelsea charging and they went on to wrap up the title in style with an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan.
They beat them 6-0 away earlier in the season but there was not such an obvious gulf in class on Saturday. The champions were always on top but huffed and puffed for long periods.
With Fernando Torres starting on the bench it was Didier Drogba and Malouda who carried the most danger but goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was equal to their best efforts.
However, he was at fault for the goal when he flapped at a David Luiz header from a corner and Malouda tapped in the loose ball.
Peter Crouch, whose early red card on Tuesday played a big part on Tottenham’s 4-0 Champions League defeat at Real Madrid, did his best to get the fans back onside with two early goals as Spurs led Stoke 3-2 at halftime and that was the final result.
Wolverhampton Wanderers remain second-last after losing 3-0 at home to Everton with West Ham United third-bottom after going down by the same score at Bolton Wanderers.
West Ham’s Mark Noble was lucky to escape punishment for shoving his own goalkeeper Rob Green after Bolton’s opening goal.
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