Manchester United win turns screw on EPL title rivals
updated 3:27 PM EST, Sun February 10, 2013
Robin van Persie celebrates after scoring Manchester United's second goal in the 2-0 win at home to Everton, which put his team 12 points clear in the English Premier League.
Van Persie pounces
- Robin van Persie and Ryan Giggs score in Manchester United's 2-0 win over Everton
- Victory puts United 12 points clear in English Premier League title race
- It comes after the 55th anniversary of the Munich air disaster involving United
- United will play Real Madrid in last 16 of Champions League on Wednesday
(CNN) -- After a week remembering one of the most traumatic incidents in the club's past, Manchester United fans can now look forward to one of their biggest days in modern history.
The English Premier League leaders will visit nine-time European champions Real Madrid -- and former player Cristiano Ronaldo -- on Wednesday safe in the knowledge that last season's nightmare may soon be erased.
Alex Ferguson's team moved 12 points clear of rivals Manchester City after Sunday's 2-0 win over Everton -- the side who last season came back from 4-2 down to snatch a draw at Old Trafford and derail United's challenge for a record-extending 20th title.
Having seen City lose 3-1 at Southampton on Saturday, Ferguson resisted the temptation to rest key players ahead of the Champions League trip to Spain and was rewarded as veteran Ryan Giggs and top scorer Robin van Persie sealed a crucial win.
Read: Ronaldo fires warning to Man Utd
Tactics: Ronaldo vs. Van Persie
Will Mourinho replace Ferguson?
Today Manchester United has an aura of glamor and invincibility. But in 1931 and 10 years later the club's future was in peril.
The man who saved Manchester United -- twice
Real Madrid ($650.5 million) and Barcelona ($613 million) lead the way at the top of the chart by some considerable distance over English champion Manchester United ($502.4) . The top six places remain unchanged from last year.
Spain dominates football's rich list
"I was going to make about seven changes but when I got the result, I felt this was a more important game for us because it could give us a comfortable lead," Ferguson said.
"We can make changes later on in the season. It is realistic; we knew that if we got a good result today then we'd be in a positive position."
Before the match, United fans had unveiled a huge banner commemorating the 55th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, which killed 23 of 44 people onboard including eight United players.
Ferguson, who was 16 at the time, said on Wednesday's anniversary that he had been affected by the incident ever since.
The 39-year-old Giggs put United ahead on Sunday in the 13th minute from Van Persie's assist, and has now scored in the league for each of the last 23 seasons.
Read: The man who saved Man Utd - twice
"His legacy lives on, he is a fantastic human being," Ferguson said of one-club man Giggs, who made his debut against Everton on March 2, 1991.
"He's up and down that pitch all day and has shown fantastic energy for the game, it is wonderful to see."
Van Persie doubled the lead at the end of the first half, beating the offside trap and rounding keeper Tim Howard before sliding in a shot that Everton defender Johnny Heitinga could only help into the net.
It was the Dutchman's league-leading 19th goal this season and his 23rd in all competitions since joining from Arsenal for $38 million in August.
Everton dropped to sixth after the weekend's results, losing ground in the race for Champions League qualification.
At the other end of the table, Aston Villa moved out of the bottom three with a 2-1 win over midtable West Ham, ending a run of nine league matches without a victory.
Belgium striker Christian Benteke broke the deadlock in the 74th minute from the penalty spot -- his 11th league goal this season -- after a foul on Charles N'Zogbia, who curled home a free-kick four minutes later.
Paul Lambert's team then held on despite a late own goal from Ashley Westwood.
Part of complete coverage on
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
Luis Suarez's biting of Branislav Ivanovic is the latest episode of moments of madness when soccer stars behave badly.
updated 5:38 AM EDT, Fri March 29, 2013
Sunderland's partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation is part of its bid to woo the African market.
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Thu March 28, 2013
Each year as many as 700 Cameroonian young footballers leave Africa in search of a professional career abroad.
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Mon May 6, 2013
Referees across Europe are feeling the heat. Insulted, threatened, chased off the field, attacked, hospitalized and, tragically, killed.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed March 6, 2013
A red card for Manchester United's Nani during Tuesday's loss to Real Madrid sparks huge social media reaction.
updated 7:25 AM EST, Tue February 26, 2013
Footballers have a battery of physios, fitness trainers and doctors all striving to fine-tune their physique -- but are they missing a trick?
updated 9:24 AM EST, Tue February 26, 2013
No Englishman has won the EPL title in over 20 years, while a leading manager reveals that English coaches are now "not respected abroad."
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Mon May 13, 2013
Hardcore Italian football "ultra" Federico is a Lazio supporter who happily admits directing monkey chants at black players.
updated 6:23 AM EST, Tue March 5, 2013
When Jupp Heynckes made his Bundesliga debut as a player in 1965, the name of Bayern Munich was a new one for the nascent German league.
updated 2:02 PM EST, Tue February 19, 2013
Football's world governing body FIFA has confirmed it will use goal-line technology at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
updated 9:03 AM EST, Tue February 19, 2013
Match-fixing has become a worldwide issue, with hundreds of matches under investigation -- but how do you actually fix a football game?
updated 12:00 PM EST, Mon February 18, 2013
U.S soccer star Robbie Rogers has "come out" as gay on the day he retired from the game, making the announcement on his blog.
updated 5:31 PM EST, Mon February 11, 2013
The wealth of owners like Chelsea's Roman Abramovich often fuels success, but for other clubs such backers prove a mixed blessing.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
Brand Beckham is moving from the "City of Angels" to the "City of Light" as the football icon signs a short-term deal and offers to give away his pay.
updated 7:47 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
Fireworks inside his own house, a car crash in his first week at Manchester City, that iconic t-shirt -- the EPL will miss Mario Balotelli.
updated 8:42 AM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
The Secret Footballer reveals the complex issues surrounding racism in the English Premier League.
updated 10:43 AM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
The death of 73 football fans in Port Said tragedy continues to haunt Egypt.