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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. 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.
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Van Persie pounces
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Evergreen Giggs
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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. Today Manchester United has an aura of glamor and invincibility. But in 1931 and 10 years later the club's future was in peril.
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The man who saved Manchester United -- twice 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. 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.
Leading the way
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Spain dominates football\'s rich list 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.

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