Precisely what was expected, a Manchester United stroll which could have easily reached double figures. As it turned out, Dimitar Berbatov led the rout of Birmingham City with his third hat trick of the season to cement his position as the Leagues leading scorer with 17 in his 19 appearances. With United having a game in hand over its rivals and both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City again surprisingly dropping points, should United be able to dispose of Blackpool on Tuesday night the title chase may soon develop into a two horse race with Arsenal. The only disappointment in a sparkling display was the continuing inability of Wayne Rooney to find the net but his overall game suggested that he may not be far off from getting back to his explosive best.
United have now gone 27 Premiership matches since they last got beaten but any talk of going through the season undefeated is far too early to contemplate in a League where defeat can come when least expected. As things stand however, Sir Alex Ferguson must be more than satisfied with the way his determined bid for title number 19 is developing.
Manchester United 5 v Birmingham City 0
Daily Telegraph – Dimitar Berbatov scored his third hat-trick of the season as Manchester United routed Birmingham City at Old Trafford. The Bulgarian striker took his Premier League goal tally to 17 for the season as goals from Ryan Giggs and Nani completed a 5-0 victory. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was even able to rest first-teamers such as Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and the fit-again Paul Scholes ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in a game that proved routine for the league leaders.
Birmingham, who face West Ham in the second-leg of their Carling Cup semi-final at St Andrews on Wednesday, held United to a 1-1 draw on home turf last month thanks to a late Lee Bowyer goal. But once Berbatov opened the scoring for United after just 96 seconds, it was clear that Birmingham were not going to emerge from Old Trafford with another point to show for their efforts. Full Report
Birmingham City Official Website – Dimitar Berbatov scored a hat-trick as Blues found Manchester United in irresistible form at Old Trafford. The Bulgarian put the home side ahead in the second minute with a header before rifling in a second on the half hour. Ryan Giggs capped a fine move to make it three just before the interval, Berbatov added a fourth ten minutes into the second half and then Nani completed the scoring with a fine finish with 14 minutes left.
Chances were at a premium for the Blues with their best chance falling to Keith Fahey who was unfortunate to not convert Matt Derbyshire’s cross two yards from goal. Manager Alex McLeish handed a Premier League debut to young midfielder Jordon Mutch but the Blues faced an ominous task as soon as Berbatov was given the time and space in the six yard box to head home after John O’Shea flicked on a Giggs corner at the front post. Full Report
Manchester Evening News – Dimitar Berbatov completed his third hat-trick of the season as five-star Manchester United brushed Birmingham aside at Old Trafford. Bulgarian star Berbatov nodded the table-topping Reds ahead after just two minutes to set the tone, and he struck again just after the half hour. Veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs’ smart finish sent United in three ahead before Berbatov completed his treble after the break.
Nani then blasted home the fifth as the irresistible Reds further boosted their goal difference. Berbatov’s other hat-tricks this season came against Liverpool and Blackburn – when he scored five – and he has now scored 18 goals in all competitions this season. Full Report
Birmingham City – Foster, Ridgewell, Johnson, Murphy, Carr, Mutch, Ferguson, Fahey (Larsson 65), Bentley (Gardner 83), Derbyshire, Hleb (Jerome 45)