Manchester United further cemented their position at the top of the table with a comfortable 2-0 home win against Everton. Two goals in the first half and then a relatively straightforward second ensured that the league leaders took full advantage of Manchester City's slip at St. Mary's on Saturday, and it looks like an almost-trivial run-in to the Premier League crown for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Robin van Persie should have got the United party started somewhat earlier than it actually did when he rounded Tim Howard in the 10th minute... and then hit the post from a tight angle when he really ought to have scored. It was an amusing miss, but that only delayed the opener, as seconds later Johnny Heitenga's lackadaisical defending allowed van Persie free in the Toffees' box again.
Rather than shooting, this time the striker picked out the unmarked Ryan Giggs on the penalty spot. Giggs took a touch before smashing a shot in off Howard's left hand post, his first league goal of the current campaign -- and one that means he's scored in every single Premier League season.
Everton responded well and forced the hosts into some uncomfortable defending. David de Gea was called into action to palm wide a Leon Osman piledriver, while the centre backs worked overtime to block the shots that were flying in from all angles. Victor Anichebe came reasonably close to levelling the scores only to see Rafael steal the ball away as he was trying to turn and shoot from six yards, and it was obvious to everyone that an equaliser was on the cards if that pressure continued.
It didn't. United are experts at springing the counterattack, and although Heitenga just about dealt with Wayne Rooney's cross just before first half injury time, the hosts would soon strike again. Phil Neville managed to keep van Persie onside for a Rafael throughball, and again the striker rounded Howard and slotted goalward. This time, his effort was on target, and despite Neville getting to the shot in time to clear, the right back only succeeded in helping it into the net.
Everton could easily have gone further behind after the hour mark when a rather bizarre goalmouth scramble somehow resulted in a United corner kick despite Howard being prone and the hosts taking at least three shots from point-blank range. Howard then came up big on that corner, dealing superbly with Tom Cleverley's hammered volley to keep the Toffees within two.
From then on, the hosts rather easily contained their guests' rather feeble pressure -- there was nothing that looked remotely like last season's last-minute meltdown to cut off the points -- and the match ended 2-0. The win takes United 12 points ahead of second place City and 16 up on Chelsea. The Premier League race is more or less over.