Premier League - Hernandez heads United closer
Manchester United took a huge step towards the Premier League title with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Everton at Old Trafford.
Javier Hernandez grabbed the winner six minutes from time when it looked for so long as though Everton would graft their way to a well-earned point.
The Mexican's 12th league goal of the season gives United a nine-point lead over title rivals Chelsea and Arsenal ahead of their weekend fixtures. With just four games left in the league, United now look well on course for a record 19th league title although they still have to play both title rivals.
United boss Alex Ferguson - back in the dugout after completing his five-match touchline ban - elected to rest Nemanja Vidic as Rio Ferdinand returned to the United defence, while he also left top scorer Dimitar Berbatov out of the squad.
Everton boss David Moyes had been hopeful of having key duo Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta back from injury to face the league leaders, but in the end only plumped for the former, and even then the Australian only made the bench.
The pattern for the game was set virtually from the off, with United dominating the possession and creating plenty of chances, although they were guilty of being far too ponderous in front of goal on numerous occasions and rarely threatened Tim Howard's goal in the first half.
It took until midway through the half for Hernandez to find his range, latching on to Anderson's weighted pass and forcing Howard to block his effort at the near post.
The Mexican was again denied by the Everton keeper after he was picked out by Wayne Rooney, and then did the keeper's job for him by getting in the way of Nani's strike after the Portuguese was picked out by Antonio Valencia.
Everton opened the scoring when these two sides drew 3-3 at Goodison Park back in September, but there was little promise of them doing the same in the first half at Old Trafford.
There were half-hearted appeals for a penalty when Jermaine Beckford and Jonny Evans fell down together in the United box, but referee Peter Walton saw no offence from the United man as the pair simply got tangled up with each other.
Ten minutes after coming on, Anichebe went down in the box after a challenge from Ferdinand, but again the officials ruled in United's favour.
Ferguson took his turn to make offensive switches, first bringing on Patrice Evra and then Michael Owen, but still Everton's stubborn resistance continued as Phil Jagielka marshalled his defence superbly.
Midway through the second half it looked as though the Toffees would go in front when United target Jack Rodwell fired low through Evra's legs, but the shot was tipped around the foot of the post by a wonderful save by Edwin van der Sar.
After Sylvain Distin deflected a cross on to his own post, Howard matched Van der Sar's heroics with a brilliant reaction stop when Hernandez met Valencia's deep cross with a header.
Moments later, however, the striker made the breakthrough with an almost identical chance to take United within touching distance of the championship.