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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

United beats Chelsea to all but claim title


MANCHESTER, England — Javier Hernandez netted the 20th goal of a sparkling debut season at Manchester United in a 2-1 victory over Chelsea on Sunday that put his team a point away from a record 19th English title.

The Mexico striker took just 36 seconds to score after Chelsea defender David Luiz failed to intercept Park Ji Sung's through ball. United captain Nemanja Vidic headed in another in the 23rd minute after connecting with Ryan Giggs' cross.

Frank Lampard pulled one back for Chelsea in the second half after Branislav Ivanovic flicked on Ramires' cross.

"We could've scored six in the second half, but we expected a tough game and we got a tough game," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We were brilliant — we got a great start but (Petr) Cech made some fantastic saves. When we gave the ball away for their goal, we were a bit nervy but the fans helped us."

United is now six points clear of Chelsea with two games to go and will regain the Premier League trophy from the London club with at least a draw at Blackburn on Saturday.

Ferguson constantly reminds his players — and has taunted rivals in the past — about how easy it is to fail with victory in sight by recalling the 1956 British Grand National.

Devon Loch was 40 meters from the winning post in the famous steeplechase when he collapsed to become one of the most infamous losers in British sporting history.

"Don't even mention Devon Loch — my dad backed that," Ferguson said.

But the 69-year-old Scot is already celebrating a 12th Premier League triumph and United surpassing the English record of 18 league titles it has held with Liverpool since 2009.

"It's fantastic to be the most successful team in the country," he said. "The minute we won that first title in 1992 the door opened, and we've been involved in the first two all throughout that period — it's a fantastic achievement.

"For the last 17 or 18 years it's been Arsenal and Chelsea as our nearest challengers, and the last few years it's been Chelsea. Arsenal made a great attempt this year but them losing today has finalized it. We deserve the title and hopefully we'll get that point now."

United stamped its authority on Chelsea from kickoff, having already knocked Carlo Ancelotti's side out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals.

Giggs sent Park sprinting up the pitch and when Luiz missed his through ball, Hernandez coolly slotted past Cech.

Giggs was also heavily involved in United's second. The Welsh midfielder played a short corner and then retook possession, nipped neatly past Salomon Kalou and provided the perfect cross for Vidic to direct a downward header past Cech.

Lampard kept the game alive by steering in Ivanovic's header in the 68th, but Chelsea already looked beaten.

"In the first minute we lost the game, we started so badly," Ancelotti said. "It was very difficult after that to come back and try to win. The second half was better but United played better and deserved to win.

"We have to accept the defeat, today United were better and in general this season they were better than us."

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