Ryan Giggs scored in the league for the 23rd consecutive season to help Manchester United to establish a 12 point advantage atop the Premier League with 12 games remaining.
Having already scored in the FA Cup and League Cup this season, 39-year-old Giggs got his landmark goal in the league to send United on their way to victory after just 13 minutes. Robin van Persie then added a second right before half-time and on this occasion there was to be no late collapse that proved so costly last season.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s desire to avoid a repeat of the late concession of a two-goal advantage in the dying minutes in the closing weeks of the last campaign was clear as he remained prominent on the sidelines for the remaining minutes.
Despite some Everton pressure late on, United held on comfortably to take full advantage of the 3-1 defeat rivals Manchester City suffered at Southampton a day earlier.
Ferguson fielded a strong lineup, despite Wednesday’s clash with Real Madrid being prominent in everyone’s thoughts.
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The absence of Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand had little detrimental effect and United could have taken the lead even earlier than they did. Van Persie got on the end of a Wayne Rooney through ball and took the ball around Tim Howard but, from an admittedly difficult angle, will have been disappointed to only strike the outside of the post.
Van Persie would redeem himself just four minutes later. Everton’s defending left a lot to be desired as Antonio Valencia headed a long pass inside and Van Persie comfortably beat two defenders before laying it across the box for Giggs who took a touch before sliding it into the net off the post from 12 yards out.
Everton tried to level things up, but the best they could do was a well-truck shot from Leon Osman from 20 yards that David De Gea dived to his left to palm wide.
As the first-half ticked into injury time, Van Persie succeeded where he had failed early on. Rafael spotted the Dutchman’s run and produced a low pass that allowed Van Persie to just break Everton’s offside trap and again took the ball around Howard but this time made no mistake in putting the ball in the net, despite the attempts of John Heitinga on the line.
Everton were left thanking Howard for United not extending their lead. The former United keeper first made a quick-fire double save from Jonny Evans in a goalmouth scramble before tipping over a good strike from Tom Cleverley.
Everton were able to muster some late pressure, but the closest they came to breaching United’s defense was a low shot from Nikica Jelavic from the edge of the box that De Gea palmed away.