Barclays Premier League

United take race to final day

2010-05-02 19:20
Nani (File)

London - Manchester United set up a dramatic last-day shoot-out with Chelsea for the English Premiership title after Nani struck to seal a 1-0 win at Sunderland on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side showed they are determined to keep fighting until the last moments of the season after Chelsea's 2-0 win at Liverpool earlier in the day meant only a victory would realistically maintain United's bid for a record 19th top flight title.

United got the win they needed thanks to Portugal international Nani's third league goal of the season midway through the first-half at the Stadium of Light.

The margin of victory would have been far more handsome had Dimitar Berbatov not wasted three clear chances to reward United's dominance.

Despite the win, Ferguson's side go into the last day as significant under-dogs.

After their comfortable victory at Anfield, Chelsea head towards Sunday's final fixtures with a single-point advantage and vastly superior goal difference in their efforts to secure a first title in four years.

It means Carlo Ancelotti's side need only to match United's result as they host Wigan.

Only victory for United at home to Stoke City will give them hope of clinching a record fourth consecutive Premier League crown.

Wayne Rooney marked his return from a one-match injury absence by almost breaking the deadlock inside seven minutes, but the United forward's shot was saved by Craig Gordon, with Ryan Giggs' close-range follow-up blocked by Phil Bardsley.

In front of a crowd of almost 48 000, which included England coach Fabio Capello's right-hand man Franco Baldini, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce had insisted there would be no favours for his former club as he went in search of his first victory over his mentor Ferguson in 14 attempts.

John Mensah, who succumbed to a knee problem inside 20 minutes, and Lorik Cana both headed narrowly wide from early set-pieces, but they were sporadic forays from the hosts as the influential Giggs clipped the woodwork with an angled 18-yard drive after good work from Patrice Evra.

In a rare scare, Edwin Van der Sar was forced to tip over a 25-yard Steed Malbranque effort destined for the top corner, but it was United who broke the deadlock on 28 minutes as their weight of pressure finally told.

Giggs's harmless-looking cross from the left was turned into something altogether more threatening by neat inter-passing form Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher inside Sunderland's box before the ball found its way to Nani, who made no mistake with an angled drive into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Michael Turner almost diverted Giggs' cross into his own net shortly afterwards, while the unmarked Berbatov spurned the first of three golden opportunities to secure the points either side of half-time.

First, he fired wide from a narrow angle after Rooney and Nani carved Sunderland open with ease.

The Bulgarian was even more culpable shortly after the interval when, stretching to meet Rooney's cross in front of an open goal, he somehow managed to balloon his shot wide.

A close range header over from Giggs' tempting cross capped an unwanted hat-trick for the former Tottenham forward.

Gordon again came to Sunderland's rescue when a slip by Kieran Richardson let in Nani after a neat Fletcher back-heel, as the Scotland international stood firm to keep out the midfielder's point blank effort.

Turner cleared off the line late on from substitute Michael Carrick, but United's wastefulness didn't matter in the end as they secured a fully deserved victory to leave the destination of the title in doubt until the season's final day.



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