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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Everton 2-4 Man Utd
By Ian Hughes

Wayne Rooney (left) scored United's third goal
Wayne Rooney (left) scored United's third goal
Manchester United battled back from two goals down to beat Everton and move five points clear in the title race.

Everton took the lead on 12 minutes when Alan Stubbs' free-kick was deflected in off Michael Carrick.

On 50 minutes, Manuel Fernandes smashed into the top corner to double their lead but John O'Shea halved it when he swept in after Iain Turner's error.

Phil Neville's own goal levelled the score before Wayne Rooney put United ahead and Chris Eagles sealed the win.

The result means United moved two points further away from Chelsea, who were held by Bolton 2-2, with three games to play.

United will be crowned champions next weekend if they win at Manchester City on Saturday and if Chelsea were to lose at Arsenal on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's depleted side started with Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench after he suffered a knock in training, and Darren Fletcher was out of the squad completely. In came Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Alan Smith.

Everton were forced to replace keeper Tim Howard, who is on loan from United and therefore ineligible, with 23-year-old Turner. Up front, James Vaughan replaced the injured Andrew Johnson and Manuel Fernandes also started.

Before the match Everton paid tribute to former player Alan Ball, who died on Tuesday.

Ball's son Jimmy and daughters Mandy and Keely placed a wreath at one end of the ground and Everton players warmed up with jerseys bearing Ball's name and number.

There was also a minute's applause for the former Everton star and World Cup winner.

And the emotional atmosphere may have fired Everton up, as they came tearing out of the blocks and were almost ahead on two minutes when Joleon Lescott hit the bar with a header.

With the home support roaring their approval - and disapproval at their former darling Rooney's every touch - the hosts continued to push forward and take advantage of a sluggish start from United.

And Everton soon took the lead when Stubbs fizzed in a low free-kick from 30 yards and keeper Edwin van der Sar was beaten by a deflection off Carrick.

However, United soon began to take control of the half after weathering some tenacious Everton tackling.

But Everton continued to battle and some of their aggressive tactics had United boss Ferguson raging on the touchline and flapping his arms in vain like a flightless bird.

His frustration was not eased as Rooney had a shot saved at the near post and the striker headed tamely into the arms of Turner.

After the break United quickly resumed their offensive and Rooney, again, was denied after three Everton bodies flung themselves into the path of his shot.

But out of the blue - the ranked mass of blue that had been Everton's defence - came a quick counter-attack, and a lethal one at that.

Fernandes took one touch to move the ball wide of Wes Brown and then rocketed a shot into the top corner from just outside the box.

It looked like it might be a bad day for United, but Everton then contrived to ruin it for themselves and ensure Ferguson's men would remain favourites for the title.

First, keeper Turner let the ball slip out of his grasp trying to pluck a routine corner out of the air and the ball landed at the feet of O'Shea, who swept the ball home.

And then seven minutes later, United were level after another corner when substitute Ronaldo rose highest to head goalwards and Neville put through his own net trying to clear off the line.

Worse was to come for Everton 12 minutes later when again they failed to deal with a cross into the area and Rooney set himself up superbly before tucking the ball away into the bottom right corner.

Ronaldo had a great chance to add a fourth when clean through one-on-one but Turner did well to block the winger's shot with his arm.

But United did score again, when Eagles raced clear and curled a low shot into the bottom corner to move United a step closer to the Premiership title.

Everton: Turner, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott, Arteta, Neville, Carsley (Van der Meyde 83), Fernandes, Osman (McFadden 72), Vaughan (Beattie 71).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Naysmith.

Booked: Vaughan.

Goals: Stubbs 12, Fernandes 50.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Brown, Heinze, Evra (Richardson 56), Solskjaer (Eagles 86), Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Smith (Ronaldo 63).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Lee.

Booked: Heinze.

Goals: O'Shea 61, Neville 68 og, Rooney 79, Eagles 90. Att: 39,682

Ref: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

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