Premier League round-up

United on course for title, relegation battle going to wire

Manchester United took a giant stride towards the title, while Fulham climbed out of the relegation places for the first time this year.

Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally for the season to an astonishing 40 goals with a brace in 10-man United's romp against West Ham.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side are now three points clear of Chelsea, who travel to Newcastle on Monday, and know victory at Wigan next weekend will secure their 10th Premier League crown.

Fulham's astonishing fight against the drop continues after they defeated relegation rivals Birmingham 2-0 on a tension-filled afternoon at Craven Cottage, with Brian McBride and Erik Nevland on target.

Birmingham and Reading are now the unhappy holders of the two remaining relegation berths, after the Royals' miserable run continued with a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Spurs, with Robbie Keane on target.

Wigan made sure of their top-flight status for another season with two goals from Antonio Valencia stunning Aston Villa, and leaving Everton in pole position to claim fifth place and a spot in the Uefa Cup.

Middlesbrough also banished any lingering relegation fears with a routine 2-0 victory over FA Cup finalists Portsmouth, as Chris Riggott and Tuncay Sanli found the net.

Derby will end the season as officially the worst side in Premier League history, with a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn meaning they are destined to finish with the worst points haul in the history of the competition, beating Sunderland's mark of 15 from 2005/06.


Manchester United cruised to victory as Ronaldo took his tally to 40 for the season - 30 in the Premier League - with two goals in the opening 24 minutes against West Ham.

His first owed much to a slip from Lucas Neill and a deflection from George McCartney, while his second was slightly comical as the entire Hammers defence missed Owen Hargreaves' cross and the ball bounced home off the Portuguese winger's thighs.

Carlos Tevez smashed home an unstoppable third soon after, but West Ham responded immediately with Dean Ashton's overhead kick.

Nani then saw red after head-butting Lucas Neill, but Michael Carrick made the game safe on the hour mark with another deflected effort, this time off McCartney, from outside the area.

Fulham climbed out of the relegation places for the first time since 26th December with a priceless victory over Birmingham, who now face a real battle to stay in the Premier League.

Jimmy Bullard swung a free-kick into the area in the 52nd minute where McBride produced a brilliant diving header to beat Maik Taylor and find the bottom corner of the net.

Taylor had made a stunning early save to deny Simon Davies, getting down to his left to push the Welsh midfielder's powerful shot from Bullard's clever free-kick behind for a corner.

Nevland made it 2-0 three minutes from time when former Fulham defender Franck Queudrue failed to deal with a routine high ball, allowing the substitute to burst through and fire beyond Taylor to send Craven Cottage into raptures.

Reading woe

Reading's relegation woes increased as they were beaten at home by Tottenham to extend their miserable run without a win or a goal to six games and leave Steve Coppell's men in the drop zone.

Spurs took the lead in the 16th minute with star striker Keane starting and finishing an excellent attack.

The Spurs forward was left in a heap on the halfway line by Michael Duberry, but picked himself up and raced goalwards before collecting a pass from Darren Bent's surging run and lifting a superb finish beyond Marcus Hahnemann.

Reading's best chance fell to Liam Rosenior, but goalkeeper Radek Cerny was equal to his late effort.

The highly-rated Valencia scored twice as Wigan made sure of their top-flight status for another year with a shock victory over Aston Villa.

Valencia grabbed his first in the 52nd minute when he received the ball on the right edge of the Villa box, with his shot taking a huge deflection off defender Wilfred Bouma before looping beyond the helpless Scott Carson.

But his second was much more classy, as the Ecuador international collected Emile Heskey's flick-on and burst through the Villa defence before clipping the ball beyond Carson with the outside of his right foot.

Villa are now three points adrift of Everton in fifth, with David Moyes' men needing just one point from their remaining two fixtures to claim a Uefa Cup place.

Bolton effectively clinched their survival with a 2-0 victory over Sunderland in the day's late game.

El-Hadji Diouf put Gary Megson's side in front with a composed finish three minutes before half-time, and Daryl Murphy then headed into his own goal in the 83rd minute.

The result takes Bolton, who face Chelsea in their final game, three points clear of Reading and Fulham.

Boro safe

Middlesbrough took the lead five minutes before the interval against Portsmouth when Fabio Rochemback's corner from the left was headed powerfully beyond Jamie Ashdown by Riggott.

And FA Cup finalists Pompey failed to learn any lessons as they conceded in similar fashion after the interval.

This time it was Stewart Downing with the corner and Tuncay providing the near post finish to make it 2-0.

Derby's abysmal defending again proved to be their downfall as they allowed Blackburn to come from behind to claim victory at Ewood Park.

The Rams took a shock lead in comical route-one fashion, with Blackburn's centre-backs left appealing in vain for offside on the halfway line after Roy Carroll's long kick reached Kenny Miller.

The Rams forward, who had run from his own half, was correctly allowed to advance in acres of space before calmly slotting the ball beyond an exposed Brad Friedel in the 19th minute.

Blackburn levelled before the interval when Carroll could only parry Morten Gamst Pedersen's strike from outside the box, with Roque Santa Cruz on hand to turn home the rebound.

And Paul Jewell was left tearing his hair out just two minutes into the second half as no fewer than three Derby players failed to clear their lines with Andy Todd even passing to Jason Roberts to allow the striker to make it 2-1.

Santa Cruz then made it 3-1 in the closing stages as he stooped to head David Bentley's teasing cross beyond Carroll.