Manchester United warmed up for the reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo by marching 12 points clear in the Premier League title race, while elsewhere Aston Villa moved out of the bottom three after beating West Ham United 2-1.
After Man City’s surprising defeat at Southampton, the attention turned to Old Trafford and the kin of side that Sir Alex Ferguson would put out, with the mouth-watering clash with Real Madrid in three days.
But Fergie knew that a win against Everton would all but wrap up United’s 20th league title, and his line-up reflected that with both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in the starting line-up.
Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie scored the first-half goals that were enough to see off Everton. Giggs has now scored in a remarkable 23 successive league seasons, yet another milestone in an unparalleled career. For van Persie, it was the 23rd goal of a sensational debut campaign for the Dutchman.
United, who let slip a two-goal lead in a costly 4-4 draw in the corresponding fixture last season, were not about to make the same mistake again. Tom Cleverley’s venomous volley stung the fingertips of Howard, while Jonny Evans had an effort blocked on the line by Nikica Jelavić.
The defeat left Everton, six points back of Tottenham for the fourth and final Champions League spot.
At the other end of the table, Aston Villa got a huge home victory against West Ham. Christian Benteke kept his composure from the spot to put Villa in front with 16 minutes left. A menace throughout, Charles N’Zogbia made it two with a terrific free-kick minutes later. An Ashley Westwood’s own goal ensured a nervy end to the match for Villa fans, but Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan made a couple of terrific saves as Villa held on.