Manchester United defeated Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday to leave themselves on the brink of a record 19th league title.
First-half goals from Javier Hernandez and captain Nemanja Vidic clinched a deserved victory that means Sir Alex Ferguson’s side need just one point from their remaining games against Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool to clinch the title.
Afterwards, a delighted Ferguson backed his side to finish the job.
“Knowing the players, they won’t muck it up,” Ferguson said. “They’ll get their point. There’s no doubt about that.”
Man-of-the-match Ryan Giggs admitted United were tantalizingly close to clinching the Premier League, a championship triumph that will see them pass Liverpool as English soccer’s most successful club.
“It’s a massive step forward,” Giggs told Sky Sports. “Mathematically it’s not done yet, but we’re nearly there. We’ve just got to finish the job next week.”
Giggs, who is on course to collect an astonishing 12th league winners medal, said supplanting Liverpool would be a “great achievement.”
“Fifteen or 20 years ago you’d have never thought it. It’s a great achievement by the team and the manager to overhaul our biggest rivals of the 70s, 80s and 90s,” the 37-year-old veteran said.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted his team had never recovered after Hernandez opened the scoring after just 37 seconds.
“We lost the game in the first minute. We started so badly. Conceding the goal in the first minute, it was very difficult to come back,” Ancelotti said.
Chelsea — whose lone goal came from the boot of Frank Lampard — had clawed back a 15-point deficit to leave themselves only three points behind United heading into Sunday’s heavyweight encounter, but the reigning champions were blown away in a devastating opening period which saw United take a 2-0 lead within 23 minutes, Hernandez scoring in the first minute to trigger delirium at Old Trafford.
South Korea international Park Ji-sung surged into space from midfield, before sliding a pass through to the young Mexican international, who nipped in behind David Luiz and slotted past Petr Cech.
It got better for United in the 23rd minute when a short corner routine saw Park feed Giggs, who jinked past Salomon Kalou, before whipping over a cross for Vidic, who shrugged off Branislav Ivanovic to nod home.
The double strike left Chelsea reeling, although the Londoners did have their chances to get back in the game, United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar blocking Kalou’s close-range header superbly.
The veteran Dutch international was pressed into action again soon afterwards, blocking a long-range Luiz shot with his midriff.
Lampard gave Chelsea hope on 68 minutes, prodding in from close range after Ivanovic knocked down a deflected Ramires cross, but United were not to be denied.
Earlier on Sunday, Arsenal were eliminated from the title race after slumping to a 3-1 defeat at Stoke City.
First-half goals from Kenwyne Jones and Arsenal old boy Jermaine Pennant followed by a late Jonathan Walters strike secured a deserved win for the Potters at the Britannia Stadium.
Arsenal were always struggling to impose themselves as Stoke warmed up for next weekend’s FA Cup final in style.
Stoke took the lead on 28 minutes when Pennant swung in a free-kick from the right which fell to Jones, who deflected the ball in off his torso from close range.
It got better for Stoke five minutes before halftime when a long-range effort from Pennant took a deflection off Johan Djourou and looped beyond Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for 2-0.
Robin van Persie pulled a goal back to give Arsenal hope on 81 minutes, but Stoke hit back almost immediately through Walters.