LONDON: Manchester United moved five points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League after second-half goals from Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at White Hart Lane yesterday.
Scholes met a cross from Ryan Giggs on the edge of the six-metre box after 69 minutes and headed home to break Tottenham's dogged resistance and van Nistelrooy wrapped up the victory in injury time with a low drive.
The win puts United on 77 points from 36 games, while second-placed Arsenal have 72 points from 35 matches after their 2-2 draw at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. If United win their last two matches they will take the title from Arsenal.
Bookmakers William Hill now make United 1-5 favourites to win the crown with Arsenal at 100-30.
United manager Alex Ferguson was relieved to see the second goal go in.
He told Sky Sports: “Getting it at that time of the game, it killed it so at least for three minutes I was able to relax.”
United dominated the match but missed a host of chances after a fine performance by Spurs goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who foiled Van Nistelrooy on at least four occasions.
The league leaders brought back David Beckham, who was controversially left on the bench by manager Alex Ferguson for the Champions League quarter-final, second-leg against Real Madrid last Wednesday.
United began brightly and in the first minute van Nistelrooy tested Keller when he broke through the defence and fired a low shot from the edge of the penalty area that the goalkeeper did well to save.
Van Nistelrooy should have given United the lead after 29 minutes when he pounced on a mistake by Ledley King and struck a shot from just outside the six metre area that Keller managed to get a hand to.
United went on the attack immediately after the break and Solskjaer burned Keller's fingertips as the goalkeeper pushed a blistering shot over the bar from 25 metres.
Giggs whistled a shot across the face of the Spurs goal and Beckham then blasted a free kick just wide of Keller's left-hand post from 30 metres and another shot by Neville was charged down with Keller punching the resulting corner clear of the danger area as United stepped up the pressure.
Beckham fed Giggs and the United winger made good progress down the left before delivering a perfect cross for Scholes, who had the simple task of heading the ball past the helpless Keller.
Quinton Fortune replaced Solskjaer on 71 minutes as Ferguson looked to tighten up the defence.
Tottenham’s Gus Poyet came closest to an equaliser when his header on 83 minutes just flew wide.
It was left for van Nistelrooy to round off the win after he latched on to a fine chipped pass from Fortune and drove a low shot past the defiant Keller. – Reuters