Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Devils Cruising towards the Title; Van der Sar Eyes Another Record

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Devils Cruising towards the Title; Van der Sar Eyes Another Record

Article excerpt

Manchester United 3

Fulham 0

MANCHESTER United moved five points clear at the Barclays Premier League summit last night thanks to a thumping win over Fulham at Old Trafford.

Paul Scholes opened the scoring with his 97th Premier League goal, Dimitar Berbatov's 12th goal of the season made it two and substitute Wayne Rooney completed the rout with his first touch after a seven-match absence.

In addition, it is now 1,302 minutes and over 14 games since Edwin van der Sar conceded a top-flight goal.

However, the statistic that looks most noteworthy is 18 league titles - the same as arch rivals Liverpool. For that is what United seem increasingly likely to achieve after winning their match in hand on the Merseyside giants at a canter.

And, although they will meet more difficult opposition than Roy Hodgson's toothless bunch, it is hard to see how the Red Devils will relinquish their advantage in the remaining 13 games, given they have now started scoring and no longer let any in. If van der Sar can keep Blackburn at bay for 89 minutes at Old Trafford on Saturday, he will eclipse the European record of Club Brugge stalwart Dany Verlinden, who went 1,390 without conceding a goal in 1990. As expected, Rooney was named on the bench after missing seven games with a hamstring injury. However, Ryan Giggs did not even have that consolation as Sunday's man-of-the-match at Derby watched on from the stands. And therein lies the problem for all Manchester United's rivals.

Rafael Benitez can only dream of being able to willingly leave out such stars and Chelsea are surely too far behind to have an impact, no matter how aggrieved they might feel at Sir Alex Ferguson choosing his programme notes to write the Londoners off.

Although Fulham had no away wins and only three goals to their name, their results suggest an obduracy that might have caught United out. But that was not the case.

While not at their best, Ferguson's men were well on top when Mark Schwarzer offered the kind of gift not really needed but accepted all the same.

Scholes could probably bring out a DVD compilation of the goals he has scored from the training ground move that simply involves a team-mate dropping a corner into his path. …

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