Manchester United moved four points clear at the top of the Premier League as Javier Hernandez’s brace inspired a 4-0 rout of struggling Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
With second placed Arsenal preparing for the League Cup final against Birmingham City, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were able to cement first place thanks to goals from Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and Fabio da Silva at the DW Stadium.
Ferguson opted to leave Dimitar Berbatov on the bench as Hernandez started up front alongside Rooney and the Mexican striker repaid his manager’s faith with the opening goal in the 17th minute. Nani raided down the left wing and curled over a cross that Hernandez poked in at the near-post for his 12th goal of the season.
Rooney had earlier angered Wigan when he caught James McCarthy with an elbow to the back of the midfielder’s head, but referee Mark Clattenburg decided not to punish the United forward.
United were indebted to goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar for several crucial saves, before Hernandez killed off second-bottom Wigan with a typically predatory strike in the 74th minute.
Rooney’s 84th-minute goal and Fabio’s strike three minutes later ensured United head into this week’s crucial fixtures at Chelsea and Liverpool on a high.
“In the first 20 minutes it was all Wigan, they had some great attempts. We had to hang on a bit at times, but getting the first goal settled us down,” Ferguson said.
Aston Villa eased their relegation worries by thrashing Blackburn Rovers 4-1 at Villa Park.
Gerard Houllier’s side went in front when Keith Andrews conceded possession to Ashley Young in the area and then hauled down the winger, who picked himself up to score the resulting penalty in the 49th minute.
An own-goal by Blackburn youngster Grant Hanley in the 62nd minute put Villa in control and Stewart Downing sealed the win two minutes later as the hosts moved five points above the bottom three.
Nikola Kalinic got one back for Rovers in the 81st minute with a deflected effort, but it was little consolation for Steve Kean’s team as Young struck again a minute later.
Blackburn’s dismal day was complete when New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen was sent off in the closing stages for a second booking.
Wolverhampton Wanderers climbed out of the relegation zone with a 4-0 demolition of 10-man Blackpool at Molineux.
Mick McCarthy’s side made a dream start when Adam Hammill’s surging run in the second minute ended with a pass to Matt Jarvis and the winger drove his shot past Richard Kingson.
Blackpool’s task was made even harder just before halftime when D.J. Campbell was sent off for pushing Richard Stearman in the face.
Wolves took full advantage of their numerical superiority thanks to Jamie O’Hara’s cool finish in the 54th minute, before two late goals from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake sealed Wolves’ biggest Premier League win.
Everton striker Jermaine Beckford scored twice to seal a 2-0 win against Sunderland at Goodison Park.
David Moyes’ side took the lead in the eighth minute when Beckford pounced on Leon Osman’s pass and fired in a shot that deflected into the net off Sunderland defender Titus Bramble.
Beckford has endured a difficult time since his pre-season move from Leeds United, but he bagged his second in the 39th minute with a scuffed finish from Mikel Arteta’s cross.
Newcastle United held on for a 1-1 draw against Bolton Wanderers at St James’ Park, despite the second-half dismissal of Ryan Taylor.