Chelsea 0-3 Manchester United  (Sky Sports)

Champions Enjoy Fun In The Chelsea Sun

Paul Scholes
Scholes: Superb opening strike


Chelsea 0-3 Manchester Utd
    Scholes 15
Van Nistelrooy 41
Solskjaer 86
FA Barclaycard Premiership

Ben Sullivan reports

A wonderful first half strike from midfielder Paul Scholes set Manchester United on their way to a 3-0 victory at Chelsea as the Champions briefly took over at the top of the Premiership.

Chasing a Champions League spot and after a 3-0 victory of their own at Old Trafford back in January, Chelsea could have been expected to bring the champions' title defence to a juddering halt.

As it was the Blues were simply steamrollered by a purring machine that is reaching maximum capacity as the business end of the season approaches.

No one epitomised United's display better than Paul Scholes - all workmanlike bustle and efficiency crowned with a sprinkling of match-turning stardust.

Scholes' magic moment came on 15 minutes and swung the match United's way, after Chelsea had made markedly the brighter start.

Ruud van Nistelrooy earned a slightly fortunate free-kick on the right and Ryan Giggs prepared to swing the ball into the box, only to change tack and roll it across the face of the box.

With the Chelsea defence slow to close him down, Scholes had time to set himself, but it was nevertheless a marvellous piece of skill to drill a ball at pace - moving across his body - into the corner of the net from more than 25 yards out.

Van Nistelrooy wasted a far easier chance just moments later after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent him clear, only for the Dutchman's volley to be wonderfully pushed away by Carlo Cudicini.

That piece of skill was matched by Fabien Barthez at the other end on 25 minutes as he held a fierce low drive from Frank Lampard with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink lurking.

It was a frustrating day for the other Dutch striker on display and long before the end of the first half Hasselbaink was reduced to glowering at the inadequacies of his team-mates - and to be fair to him they were legion.

Hasselbaink did have one half chance when Barthez' poor clearance landed at his feet 35 yards out, but he was crowded out before he could launch a shot at the unguarded goal.

United doubled their lead four minutes before the break after neat inter-passing on the edge of the box between Solskjaer and Giggs resulted in Van Nistelrooy being sent clear.

This time the Dutchman gave The Italian no chance to deny him his 22nd Premiership goal of the season. He had already tested Cudicini's shot-stopping powers. This time he simply rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into the empty net.

And that just about settled it. Chelsea were reduced to lumping hopeful balls in the direction of the increasingly isolated Hasselbaink - Eidur Gudjohnsen had hobbled off at half-time with an ankle injury and not reappeared.

Emmanuel Petit broke clear on the left but failed to threaten with his cross, while William Gallas lifted a chip over the bar, but even now United were the more dangerous.

Cudicini pulled off a superb double save to deny first Giggs and then Van Nistelrooy, but he was beaten by another flowing move in the dying minutes.

Gary Neville swept the ball into Giggs, who played it on first time into the path of Solksjaer for a comparatively simple finish.

The script had demanded that United - with half an eye on next week's Champions League semi-final - would roll over and surrender their title hopes.

As it was United rolled and Chelsea were crushed - and the Blues' own Champions League ambitions have almost certainly been crushed with them.

Man of the Match: Paul Scholes - Good all round display capped by a magnificent opening goal.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Gallas, Desailly, Terry, Melchiot, Gronkjaer, Petit (Dalla Bona 78), Lampard, Zola, Gudjohnsen (Zenden 45), Hasselbaink.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Jokanovic, Huth.
Booked: Gronkjaer, Gallas, Hasselbaink, Dalla Bona.

Man Utd: Barthez, Gary Neville, Blanc, Brown, Fortune (Phil Neville 42), Silvestre, Scholes, Butt, Giggs (Forlan 87), Solskjaer, van Nistelrooy.
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Irwin, O'Shea.
Booked: Solskjaer. 

Att: 41,725
Ref: G Barber (Tring).

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