uNITED SHINE AS CHELSEA BUNGLE

SANDWICHED: Chelsea's Didier Drogba, center, and Manchester United's Ryan Giggs, right, battle for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford, Manchester, yesterday.  11/01/2009. Pic. Martin Rickett.  © AP
SANDWICHED: Chelsea's Didier Drogba, center, and Manchester United's Ryan Giggs, right, battle for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford, Manchester, yesterday. 11/01/2009. Pic. Martin Rickett. © AP

LONDON - Manchester United thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford yesterday as the Premier League champions moved an ominous step closer to leaders Liverpool.

LONDON - Manchester United thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford yesterday as the Premier League champions moved an ominous step closer to leaders Liverpool.

Nemanja Vidic headed United in front in first-half stoppage time and Wayne Rooney doubled their advantage on the hour with a close-range volley. Dimitar Berbatov completed the rout in the 87th minute.

Alex Ferguson's side are now just five points behind Liverpool and one behind a Chelsea side who were desperately lacking any spark and wilted alarmingly. United have two games in hand of both their main title rivals.

United face Wigan Athletic on Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. Should they win both they will be top of the league before Liverpool face Everton next Monday.

United began to ratchet up the pressure on the Chelsea goal just before the interval. John Terry was forced into one desperate block from a Park Ji-sung shot before Ronaldo had a headed goal disallowed after referee Howard Webb ordered a crafty United corner to be re-taken - much to the fury of Rooney.

Chelsea failed to learn their lesson and as Giggs delivered the ball again in stoppage time, Berbatov got a touch and Serbian defender Vidic crept in at the far post to nod the ball past Cech.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of Chelsea and despite Scolari sending on Nicolas Anelka to partner Didier Drogba up front after the break it was United who moved up a gear.

A movement on the hour mark saw Ronaldo's heel release Patrice Evra and his pacey cross was met by Rooney to double United's lead. - Reuters

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