United earned a valuable victory 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage, moving just a point behind Arsenal, who could only manage a draw across town at the Emirates Stadium.
A Simon Davies own goal rounded off the scoring after first-half goals from Owen Hargreaves and Ji-sung Park had put United in the driving seat.
Last season, Craven Cottage was the scene for late drama as Cristiano Ronaldo capped a stunning 88th-minute dribble with a shot to match. That 2-1 victory was an indication that Sir Alex’s side had the necessary character to go on and win the league.
In this match, victory was less dramatic but it could again be of significance in the title race. With Arsenal stumbling at the Emirates, this weekend could well be looked upon as a vital step along the way. But there are still plenty of twists and turns to come.
With one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League match against Lyon, Sir Alex left out Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidic, although he did field former Fulham favourites Edwin van der Sar and Louis Saha. And the Frenchman had a golden chance to put the Reds in front in the fifth minute, but sliced wide from 18 yards after Paul Scholes had found the Frenchman from inside United’s half.
Carlos Tevez then went close from distance on seven minutes, forcing Fulham stopper Antti Niemi into a smart save down by his left-hand post. Van der Sar was called into action a minute later, flinging himself to his right to keep out Danny Murphy’s rasping volley. The chance buoyed the home support but it was United who carved out the next chance, Scholes’ shot requiring a brave block from Fulham centre-back Brede Hangeland to keep scores level.
But a minute later Hangeland's foul on Carlos Tevez on the edge of the box lead to United's opener. With regular free-kick taker Ronaldo on the bench, up stepped