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BBC Sport's Mike Ingham
"United on the threshold of another title"
 real 14k

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"Great credit to Coventry - they had a go"
 real 56k

Saturday, 14 April, 2001, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Man Utd stun battling Coventry
John Hartson
Hartson opens the scoring for Coventry City
Manchester United 4-2 Coventry City

Ryan Giggs headed Manchester United closer to the Premiership title - and Coventry City towards the relegation trapdoor.

Giggs scored a rare - and spectacular - late header to break Coventry's brave resistance in an Old Trafford thriller.

Coventry had threatened to spring a surprise with a vibrant attacking performance that stunned Sir Alex Ferguson's champions-elect.

John Hartson gave Gordon Strachan's side an early lead, but United delivered a typical response with a Dwight Yorke double.

Hartson drew Coventry level again before half-time, only for Giggs to end a spell of incessant second half pressure with United's crucial third goal.

United - who needed a maximum of six points before kick-off to make it three successive titles - rubbed salt in Coventry's wounds when Paul Scholes added a spectacular fourth.

John Hartson
Hartson celebrates
It was a harsh final scoreline on brave Coventry, but boss Strachan will take great heart from his side's performance for the closing weeks of their relegation struggle.

United, meanwhile, will take confidence as they attempt to reverse a 1-0 deficit in the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich in Germany on Wednesday.

United handed a belated 37th birthday present to goalkeeper Andy Goram by giving him his debut.

It enabled Ferguson to rest Fabien Barthez ahead of the Munich clash - but the Frenchman's veteran replacement was picking the ball out of the net after only ten minutes.

Paul Telfer's pass sent Hartson clear, and even though Goram blocked his first effort, he slid home a composed finish at the second attempt.

The first half was an absolutely magnificent game of football, and Coventry deserve great credit for the way they took the game to us
  Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
United cut short Coventry's celebrations two minutes later when they fatally stood off as Yorke raced through.

Yorke needed no second invitation to beat Kirkland with an unerring right foot shot from 20 yards.

And he doubled his and United's tally after 27 minutes, when he controlled Keane's pass instantly eight yards out to score with ease.

Coventry were not shaken from their attacking beliefs by the setback - and it was no surprise when they restored equality five minutes later.

The combination of Telfer and Hartson did the trick again, with the giant Welshman over-powering Wes Brown at the far post to head past a stranded Goram.

Dwight Yorke
Yorke's delight
It was a game brimming with excitement and end-to-end football, and Yorke missed his easiest chance of the afternoon after 34 minutes, somehow shooting wildly over the top when it seemed simpler to score.

United upped the tempo at the start of the second half, and were grateful to the brilliance of young goalkeeper Kirkland.

He was in spectacular action to deny Gary Neville and Keane - but United had a scare of their own on the hour.

Referee Mike Riley awarded a free kick only 15 yards out when Goram picked up Jaap Stam's back pass - but the United wall held firm and charged down Marcus Hall's effort.

It was Goram's last action of an eventful debut, and he was replaced by Raimond Van Der Gouw after 66 minutes in as move that was apparently pre-arranged by United.

John Hartson
Hartson scores
And as United searched for the breakthrough, David Beckham replaced Nicky Butt.

Kirkland was Coventry's hero again after 71 minutes, plunging bravely at Andy Cole's feet after a thrilling left flank raid by Ryan Giggs.

But he was helpless as United's pressure finally paid off with ten minutes left - and from a most unlikely source.

Neville's cross found Giggs 15 yards out, and he looped a powerful header past Kirkland's despairing dive.

And United piled on the agony for Coventry when Scholes fired past Kirkland from 20 yards to leave the championship champagne waiting to be uncorked.

Man Utd: Goram, Gary Neville, Brown, Stam, Silvestre, Scholes, Keane, Butt, Giggs, Cole, Yorke. Subs: Beckham, Sheringham, Phil Neville, Van Der Gouw, Solskjaer.

Coventry: Kirkland, Quinn, Breen, Shaw, Hall, Bellamy, Eustace, Telfer, Carsley, Thompson, Hartson. Subs: Hedman, Edworthy, Williams, Chippo, Bothroyd.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds)

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