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Everton’s South African midfielder Steven Pienaar (left) challenges Manchester United’s Welsh midfielder Ryan Giggs during the English Premier League (EPL) match at Old Trafford, Manchester, North West England, yesterday. Giggs has scored in every EPL season since making his debut in 1991. RIGHT: Manchester United fans support a huge banner to commemorate the 1958 Munich Air Disaster, in which eight Manchester United players, three members of the club’s staff and a number of journalists died.
LONDON: Ryan Giggs demonstrated his enduring value to Manchester United with the opening goal in a 2-0 home win over Everton yesterday that put his side almost out of sight in the title race.
The 39-year-old Welshman slotted his side in front after 13 minutes to continue his extraordinary feat of having scored in every Premier League season since its inception 21 years ago.
Robin van Persie was also on target for United before halftime as the leaders took full advantage of champions Manchester City’s shock 3-1 defeat at Southampton on Saturday.
With 12 games remaining Alex Ferguson’s side have 65 points, 12 more than City, and are closing in on a 20th league title.
A remarkable 4-4 draw with Everton in the final weeks of the title race last season proved United’s undoing as City pipped them on the final day of the season on goal difference.
This time, however, there were no slip-ups from Ferguson’s side as they recorded a 10th consecutive home league win.
Despite the proximity of Wednesday’s Champions League last- 16 tie against Real Madrid, Ferguson resisted any temptation to rest key players - a mark of respect for an Everton side themselves chasing a top-four finish and who beat United on the opening day of the season on Merseyside.
With Madrid manager Jose Mourinho watching from the stands, United produced a clinical performance, even if Van Persie was guilty of an astonishing miss early on when he took the ball past Everton keeper Tim Howard but blasted his shot against the post.
But United did not have to wait long for their opener. Van Persie picked out Giggs with a pull back and he steadied himself before curling a precise shot in off the post.
Everton briefly enjoyed some possession but on the stroke of halftime right back Rafael released Van Persie with a clever reverse pass and the Dutchman again rounded Howard before shooting into the empty net despite Johnny Heitinga’s desperate attempt to keep the ball out of the net.
United never lost control and comfortably contained Everton after the break, although David De Gea was required to make a fine low save after sloppy play by Chris Smalling allowed Nikica Jelavic a rare sight of goal.
Meanwhile, a penalty from Christian Benteke and a Charles N’Zogbia free kick earned Aston Villa a vital 2-1 victory against West Ham United yesterday to lift them out of the Premier League bottom three.
The home side endured a nervous final few minutes after Ashley Westwood’s 87th-minute own goal but they held on to climb above Reading in the relegation dogfight.
Benteke was the calmest person in the stadium as he rolled his spot kick into the net in the 74th minute after Mark Noble was adjudged to have fouled N’Zogbia.
Five minutes later N’Zogbia sent a sweetly-struck free kick curling past Jaaskelainen to give Villa breathing space later in the game. REUTERS