Rooney and Carrick put United three clear

Wayne Rooney puts Manchester United ahead as they moved three points clear of Liverpool.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick scored in each half as Manchester United beat Portsmouth 2-0 at Old Trafford to go three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the English Premier League table, with a game in hand.

With midfielder Paul Scholes becoming only the fourth United player to reach 600 appearances for the club, the defending champions moved closer to an 18th league title — and their third in succession — with a dominant if unspectacular performance against a Portsmouth side still battling to avoid relegation. United took the lead in the ninth minute when Brazilian midfielder Anderson sent Ryan Giggs flying down the left flank with a brilliant reverse pass — and the Welsh veteran calmly rolled his cross along the six-yard box, where Rooney was waiting to tap home. The home side had chances to double their lead in the opening 45 minutes. Substitute John O’Shea had a header cleared off the line by Nadir Belhadj, while Giggs spurned an opportunity after Rooney had sent him through. Despite Portsmouth threatening to get back into the game in the second half, the points were sealed with eight minutes remaining when substitute Carrick collected Scholes’ superb pass to finish smartly.

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Meanwhile, in a dress rehearsal of next month’s FA Cup final, Chelsea and Everton drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge to remain third and sixth in the table respectively. Goalkeepers Petr Cech and Tim Howard comfortably kept the opposition at bay, with Chelsea striker Didier Drogba going closest to breaking the deadlock when he hit the crossbar with a stunning volley in injury time.