Ronaldo inspires United
LEADERS Manchester United began their holiday fixtures with a resounding 3-0 victory at Aston Villa as the goals flowed in the Premier League at the weekend.
A double from an inspired Cristiano Ronaldo and a thumping Paul Scholes volley, all in the second half, briefly gave United a five-point lead before champions Chelsea responded with a last-gasp 3-2 win at Wigan Athletic to slice it to two again.
At the halfway point of the season United have 47 points from 19 games while Chelsea have 45.
Liverpool remained a distant third at the halfway stage, 13 points behind United after Craig Bellamy and Xabi Alonso sealed a 2-0 home win over bottom club Watford.
Arsenal stayed in the last Champions League qualifying spot with a 6-2 thrashing of free-falling Blackburn Rovers.
Arsenal were shocked into action after three minutes when Shabani Nonda scored a penalty but the rampant Gunners replied three times before halftime through Gilberto Silva, Alexandr Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor’s penalty.
Nonda scored again after the break as Rovers threatened a comeback only for Robin van Persie to score a late double before Matthieu Flamini completed the rout in added time.
Wayne Rooney was left on the bench for United’s trip to Villa Park having missed training due to a family bereavement but his sidekick Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage.
The Portuguese cut through the Villa defence to break the deadlock after 59 minutes and then grabbed the killer third goal either side of Scholes’ thumping volley that went in off the underside of the crossbar.
Chelsea’s victory took the day’s goal tally to 32 but they looked to have blown victory when Emile Heskey’s brace cancelled out goals from Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou.
However, in the third minute of stoppage time, Robben cut in from the right to fire the winner that keeps Chelsea breathing down United’s neck.
DOUBLE . . . Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his second goal for United