Man United return to top of the log

Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand helped put Manchester United back in first place in the English Premier League after a 2-0 victory over Liverpool on Sunday.

Scholes, making his 500th appearance for United, scored in the 39th minute and Ferdinand added the second in the 66th as United reclaimed first place above defending champions Chelsea.

Both teams have 22 points but United lead on goal difference.

The Blues beat Portsmouth 2-1 on Saturday.

”After losing to Arsenal we couldn’t afford to lose a big one again,” said United manager Alex Ferguson, whose team finished eight points behind Chelsea last year. ”So the players responded to that and I thought this was an excellent performance.”

The loss leaves Liverpool in 11th place — 11 points behind the leaders — with only one point from five games on the road.

”When you are at the top or the table or the bottom or in the middle it’s the same — you have to think about the next three points,” said Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, whose club holds a record 18 league titles but has not won the championship since 1990. ”The only time you can improve is the next game.”

Arsenal moved up to fourth place with 17 points after beating hosts Reading 4-0 — the team’s fifth straight win. Thierry Henry scored two goals, while Alexander Hleb and Robin van Persie added the others.

Bolton stayed in third place — two points behind the leaders — with a 1-0 victory at Blackburn. Ivan Campo scored in the 62nd minute at Ewood Park, but Wanderers goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskenlainen saved two penalties in two minutes late in the game from Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts.

Bolton’s Kevin Nolan was sent off after disputing the second spot kick.

West Ham lost their seventh game in a row at Tottenham 1-0. Mido scored his first goal of the season.

Aiyegbeni Yakubu headed in the only goal in the 85th minute as Middlesbrough edged neighbours Newcastle 1-0.

United went ahead before a Premier League record 75 808-strong crowd at Old Trafford when a low cross from Ryan Giggs found Scholes totally unmarked in front of goal. Although Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina raced off his line to block his first shot, the midfielder followed up to beat Sami Hyypia to the rebound and force the ball over the line.

”As long as the team wins, it doesn’t really matter who scores the goals,” Scholes said. ”It was quite special. If it’s your 500th game or your first game, playing for Manchester United is a big thing. Just to get the win is the most important thing.”

Giggs also created the second goal in the 66th with another cross that Jamie Carragher failed to clear. Ferdinand pulled the ball on to his left foot and fired into the top corner for his first goal since an injury-time winner against Liverpool on January 22.

”We’re doing very well considering we don’t have most or our recognised team yet,” Ferguson said. ”Players like Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre are not 100% and Cristiano Ronaldo missed the game today because of illness.

”We started the season with the hope and the desire and the intention to do well this season. And so far, they’ve not let us down.”

On Saturday, it was: Wigan 4, Manchester City 0; Charlton 0, Watford 0; Everton 2, Sheffield United 0; and Aston Villa 1, Fulham 1.

In Sunday’s only League Championship game, West Bromwich Albion beat neighbours Wolves 3-0 to stay third in the standings behind Cardiff and Preston. — Sapa-AP

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