Gibson helps United ease past Bolton
MANCHESTER UTD 4
Who needs free-scoring Wayne Rooney when Mr O Goal is in such prolific form?
Jlloyd Samuel's effort was the 10th own-goal scored for United, who moved a point clear of Chelsea at the top of the table, before Dimitar Berbatov's 11th and 12th Premier League goals of the season and one from Darron Gibson wrapped up victory for the champions.
The 10 goals scored by other teams' players have earned United five extra points and with six matches remaining, that tally could prove decisive. However, despite the fortune that set them on their way, they ran out comfortable winners as they secured a seventh straight victory.
United began the match in the knowledge that their comfortable goal difference advantage over Chelsea had been turned into a six-goal deficit. Alex Ferguson started the game with Berbatov on his own in attack and Jonny Evans was given his first start since the Carling Cup final at the end of February, with Rio Ferdinand not in the squad.
Although his parent club had lost ground with a 1-1 draw at Birmingham earlier in the day, on-loan Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was keen to make an impression, with a shot that flew narrowly wide of Edwin van der Sar's goal and a sliding challenge on Gary Neville that left the United captain scowling.
When United were finally able to stretch the hosts, with Neville clipping over the top for Antonio Valencia to cross, it was Gary Cahill, back in the Bolton side for the first time in two months following a blood clot, who was able to glance away before Berbatov pounced.
Before the match, former United manager Tommy Docherty claimed that goalkeepers move more than Berbatov but the Bulgarian threatened again with a volley from Darren Fletcher's cross that was fumbled wide by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Evans shot over after Bolton failed to clear Nani's corner before Patrice Evra, who never seems to enjoy visits to the Reebok Stadium or playing against Kevin Davies, was given another reason to dislike Bolton after coming off second best in a challenge with Sam Ricketts.
Shortly afterwards, Nemanja Vidic had to be at full stretch to block from Tamir Cohen and then Wilshere opened up United's defence with a wonderfully weighted pass to Johan Elmander, whose thumping shot was turned around the post by Van der Sar.
Eight minutes before the interval, United were given the biggest of favours when, under little pressure from either Fletcher or Berbatov, Samuel side-footed Giggs's cross neatly into the corner of his own net.
Van der Sar pushed a shot from Muamba over the bar and the former Arsenal player had an effort deflected wide as Bolton looked for a quick response. From the corner, the Dutch goalkeeper found himself dumped on the ground by Zat Knight.
United were angered by Ricketts' challenge on Nani just before the half-time whistle, with Ferguson going on to the pitch to register his anger with Martin Atkinson, and continued to remonstrate with the referee down the tunnel. Evra, meanwhile, was showing the officials the stud marks on his thigh from Ricketts' earlier tackle.
Berbatov should have made the game safe when he was sent clear by Fletcher but stumbled as he was about to take a shot at goal. Fletcher then stabbed wide after he was teed up by the Bulgarian.
United were grateful that Neville was not taking any tips from Samuel when he guided a cross from Lee wide of his goal, and Vidic seemed to relish the physical confrontation with Davies. Cahill pulled off a timely block on Giggs at the other end but United made the game safe when Jaaskelainen could only block Fletcher's drive and Berbatov reacted the quickest to squeeze the ball past the goalkeeper.
Nani made United's third, cutting inside Ricketts before rolling over a cross for Berbatov to stab in. Finally, Gibson joined in when he found the top left corner to further trim Chelsea's goal-difference advantage.