Late goal by Hernandez send United nine clear

London: Manchester United edged closer to a record 19th championship title on Saturday when Mexico striker Javier Hernandez struck six minutes from time to secure a 1-0 home win over Everton and take them nine points clear in the Premier League.

United, who visit Schalke 04 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, have 73 points with four games to play after the striker nicknamed Chicharito, or Little Pea, ended Everton`s resistance at Old Trafford.

Chelsea, who were hosting West Ham United later on Saturday are second on 64, with Arsenal, away to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, also on 64.

Manchester City, who visit Blackburn Rovers on Monday, are fourth on 56 with fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on 55 after they could only draw 2-2 at home with West Bromwich Albion.

Liverpool are only three points further back after thrashing Birmingham City 5-0 at Anfield, helped by a Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick.

Sunderland, who had taken just one point from their previous nine games, ended the dire run in emphatic style by beating Wigan Athletic 4-2 to ease their relegation worries.

Wolverhampton Wanderers against Fulham, Blackpool v Newcastle United and Aston Villa v Stoke City all finished 1-1.

Seventh-placed Everton were unbeaten in seven league games going into their match at Old Trafford but their record at the ground is dire, with their last win coming in 1992.

They were unable to end that drought on Saturday, although, well-organised and hard-working in defence, they kept United at arm`s length for much of a sweltering afternoon.

United, beaten in the FA Cup semi-finals by Manchester City last weekend and held 0-0 at Newcastle United on Tuesday, cranked up the pressure in the last 15 minutes.

Everton keeper Tim Howard did well to claw away a Hernandez header after 80 minutes but soon after he was caught flat-footed as the striker rose to meet an Antonio Valencia cross and power in his point-blank header.

United have now won 16 and drawn one of their 17 home league games. Victories in their next two league matches would secure the title with two games to spare but they are unlikely to be easy -- away to Arsenal and at home to Chelsea.

"Today`s game was tricky. Everton are very resilient and some of their defending was fantastic," said United manager Alex Ferguson.

"We had shots blocked near the line, some misses and the goalkeeper made two or three great saves. You say to yourself: `It`s going to be another late one here.` You can just smell the history of the club and so it was to be.

"The important thing is we never gave up. We took gambles, we took risks. We put Wayne Rooney in the middle of the pitch, we brought Ryan Giggs on, Michael Owen on. We just kept going and I think we can be very pleased today."

Bureau Report

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