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United match Chelsea with easy win

Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher shields the ball from Everton's Marouane Fellaini.
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher shields the ball from Everton's Marouane Fellaini.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manchester United keep in touch with English leaders Chelsea with a 3-0 crushing of Everton
  • Chelsea had earlier gone eight points clear with a 4-0 home romp against Wolverhampton
  • Third-placed Arsenal suffer first defeat in 14 games, losing 1-0 at Sunderland
  • Aston Villa move into fourth place after coming from behind for 1-1 draw at Burnley
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(CNN) -- Manchester United kept in touch with English Premier League leaders Chelsea with a 3-0 crushing of Everton on Saturday, but Arsenal's title hopes suffered a big setback.

Chelsea had gone eight points clear after brushing aside Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 4-0 home romp earlier in the day, and third-placed Arsenal suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, but United remained within two victories of the leaders after posting their biggest winning league margin since August.

Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher put champions United ahead in the 35th minute with a spectacular volley, while Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia killed off the visitors with second-half goals.

Fletcher has been one of United's most influential players this season, when fit, and broke the deadlock from an unlikely position on the edge of a crowded penalty area as Valencia headed a deep Patrice Evra cross into his path.

Ryan Giggs found Carrick in space to allow the England midfielder to fire in a low shot in the 67th minute, and substitute Paul Scholes set up winger Valencia nine minutes later.

The match marked United manager Alex Ferguson's last before starting his two-match ban for criticizing a referee following the draw with Sunderland last month.

Chelsea cruised into a 3-0 lead after only 22 minutes against Wolves, with Florent Malouda netting an early opener before a fine double strike by Ghana midfielder Michael Essien.

England midfielder Joe Cole made it 4-0 with his first goal for over a year 11 minutes after halftime as the Londoners set a new club record of 12 consecutive home wins.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti was able to give a debut to Gael Kakuta, the 18-year-old whose disputed move from French Lens resulted in a two-year worldwide transfer ban which has been suspended under appeal.

"We put some young players in this team, and in January if we maintain this condition, it is not necessary to buy other players," Ancelotti said.

"They are very good young players and I will use them in the future this season."

Injury-hit Arsenal were left eight points behind their city rivals after falling to a first defeat in 14 games at Sunderland.

England striker Darren Bent boosted his World Cup hopes with his ninth league goal this season, striking in the 71st minute after his header from Andy Reid's corner cannoned back off the legs of substitute Frazier Campbell and fell kindly for him.

Arsenal thought they had won a penalty five minutes into injury-time when Campbell tangled with substitute Carlos Vela, but referee Alan Wiley waved play on.

Aston Villa moved up into fourth place above Tottenham -- who host Wigan on Sunday -- after coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at Burnley.

The home side, who have performed beyond all expectations this season following promotion, took the lead through defender Steven Caldwell's ninth-minute header.

But England striker Emile Heskey headed the equalizer from winger James Milner's 86th-minute cross for his first league goal since April 18.

Manchester City remained in sixth place after setting a new Premier League record of six successive draws after being held 2-2 at seventh-placed Liverpool.

Liverpool took the lead when defender Martin Skrtel converted Steven Gerrard's free-kick five minutes after halftime, but Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor headed the equalizer 19 minutes later.

Midfielder Stephen Ireland put City ahead in the 76th minute with a close-range flick, but 60 seconds later substitute Yossi Benayoun bundled in from close range from David Ngog's deflected cross to give last season's runners-up a point and leave them 13 points adrift of Chelsea.

Birmingham moved up to 13th place after beating mid-table Fulham 1-0, with veteran midfielder Lee Bowyer scoring the only goal in the 16th minute after latching on to James McFadden's pass.

Hull and West Ham edged out of the bottom three after sharing an entertaining 3-3 draw, with five goals coming before halftime.

The visiting Hammers went 2-0 up with headed goals from Guillermo Franco and Jack Collison inside the opening 11 minutes.

Hull replied with a deflected Jimmy Bullard free-kick before Kamil Zayatte equalized with a volley.

Midfielder Bullard put Hull ahead with a penalty after Craig Fagan was fouled, but his team had defender Bernard Mendy sent off nine minutes after halftime, and West Ham leveled on 69 through Manuel da Costa.

Bolton can move out of the relegation zone with a point from Sunday's match at home to Blackburn, whose manager Sam Allardyce will miss the trip to his former club as he needs surgery due to problems in a heart artery.