|1||Van der Sar|
Like last season, the game was settled by a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. This one, which came just before the interval, was the winger’s 14th goal of the season. But the Reds had to hold off a determined Everton side to end the visitors’ nine-game unbeaten run to go five points clear at the top of league.
United had made one change from the side that demolished West Brom in midweek, with Darren Fletcher, scorer at Goodison Park earlier in the season, replacing Ryan Giggs.
The champions took to the field in black armbands as this was the closest home game to the 51st anniversary of the Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958.
Everton were boosted by the availability of Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini after the influential forwards passed fitness tests.
It was a decidedly more cagey opening to the game than United had experienced at The Hawthorns, with both sides preferring to test the water rather than dive-bomb into it. United enjoyed the majority of the possession early on, however, with Everton content to get behind the ball and punt long balls towards Cahill and the considerable frame of Fellaini.
Unsurpisingly, the visitors’ main threat came from set-pieces and United’s defence had to muscle up to clear more than one dangerous-looking