Premier League Roundup, Dec. 30

Manchester United thrashed Wigan 5-0 and Arsenal beat Portsmouth

4-1 on Wednesday to diminish Chelsea’s advantage at the top of the

English Premier League going into 2010.

Wayne Rooney’s 15th goal of the season started the rout that

moved second-place United to within two points of Chelsea.

“It was an excellent performance,” United manager Alex

Ferguson said. “Rooney was absolutely fantastic; the energy he

shows and desire to win is marvelous.”

Like Rooney, Eduardo da Silva also scored first for Arsenal

in the 28th minute as the London club cemented its title

credentials at the expense of bottom-place Portsmouth, which was

fighting to prevent bankruptcy.

Arsenal is two points behind United, but has a game in hand

over Chelsea and the 18-time English champions.

“We’re up for it, the commitment is there and the talent is

there,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We’ll fight and this

team is ready to give everything.”

United, though, was targeting a fourth straight title, and a

sign of the strength of Ferguson’s squad was that he fielded a

different lineup for a 99th consecutive match.

Rooney was unstoppable against Wigan. The England striker

connected with defender Rafael Da Silva’s low cross at the near

post in the 28th and steered the ball beyond Chris Kirkland.

United quickly doubled its advantage when former Wigan winger

Antonio Valencia cut the ball back for Michael Carrick to sweep

home.

A third came on the stroke of halftime when Darren Fletcher

found Rafael on the edge of the area and the Brazilian drilled a

low shot past Kirkland and ran across to the bench to celebrate

with twin brother Fabio.

Kirkland was forced off injured at halftime and his

replacement, Mike Pollitt, was beaten after five minutes. Valencia

skipped past Maynor Figueroa and crossed into the penalty area

where Hendry Thomas had been defending before the Wigan player

slipped.

Having created three goals, Valencia piled more misery on his

former club when he lofted the ball over the onrushing Pollitt in

the 75th.

“The play, movement and tempo of the game was great for us,”

Ferguson said. “They kept the momentum going for us all night and

you never know how important the goal difference could be, although

Chelsea still have two more than us.”

While Arsenal chases a first league title since 2004,

Portsmouth was fighting for survival – not only in the Premier

League, but for its very existence. It emerged earlier in the day

that the cash-strapped 2008 FA Cup winners face bankruptcy unless

they can clear debts to the British government by February.

Pompey’s miserable plight was reflected in Arsenal’s opening

goal with Eduardo’s free kick taking a huge deflection off defender

Younes Kaboul to float past static goalkeeper Hermann Hreidarsson

at the right-hand post.

Samir Nasri scored another for Arsenal just before the break

after receiving the ball from Aaron Ramsey’s flick-on.

Ramsey got on the scoresheet himself in the 69th, taking the

ball off Vanden Borre and charging past Frederic Piquionne before

lashing in a left-foot shot from the edge of the box.

Nadir Belhadj pulled one back for Pompey but Alex Song’s

header from Nasri’s right-wing cross killed off the match in the

81st with Arsenal’s 51st goal of the season.