Man U. scores late victory over Coventry

LONDON, Reuters

Late goals from Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes gave Manchester United a hard-fought 4-2 win over Coventry City at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Alex Ferguson’s side are now just one victory away from a third successive premier league title.

It was a deserved success for United, who dominated the second half after Dwight Yorke and John Hartson had scored twice apiece to leave the teams level at 2-2 at the interval.

United’s seventh championship in nine years could arrive later on Saturday if Arsenal lose at home to Middlesbrough — but is more likely to be secured against neighbours Manchester City next weekend.

The leaders now have 76 points to Arsenal’s 60 and the 56 of Leeds United.

United can now turn their attentions to Europe, where they must try to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their quarter-final against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

“They (Coventry) posed a real threat to us and I couldn’t wait until halftime,” said Ferguson. “But in the second half we got to grips with it.

Man of the match Keane added: “We knew it was going to be tough and they played very well in the first half.

“But I thought we commanded the game after the break, we’ve scored four goals and this sets us up nicely for the Munich game.”

Alex Ferguson gave a debut to 37-year-old goalkeeper Andy Goram, resting first choice Fabien Barthez.

But the former Scotland international was beaten after just 11 minutes when Hartson expertly brought down a Paul Telfer through ball before scoring at the second attempt.

The lead lasted just two minutes as Yorke was allowed time and space on the edge of the box and beat Chris Kirkland with a low 25-metre shot into the corner.

Yorke sprung the offside trap in the 28th minute to put United ahead but Coventry hit back five minutes later when Hartson outmuscled Wes Brown to power in a header at the far post.

The chances continued to come at both ends and Yorke should have completed a first half hat-trick but blazed over the bar from point blank range.

Coventry posed less of a threat after the break as United built up the pressure.

Kirkland raced from his line to block Yorke after an hour and then palmed away a Gary Neville drive.

The 19-year-old was also on hand to foil Roy Keane and Andy Cole with good saves.

But the inevitable breakthrough came nine minutes from time when Gary Neville picked out Giggs with a deep cross and the winger looped in a rare header.

Scholes completed the victory with a fierce drive from 25 metres three minutes from time.

It was harsh on Coventry, who face Champions League hopefuls Ipswich Town and Liverpool in their next two games as they fight to avoid relegation after 34 unbroken years in the top flight.

“It’s disappointing because we played so well in the first half and scored two good goals,” said Hartson.

“But there’s only so much defending you can do, it was like the Alamo in the second half and class told in the end.” Coventry remain third from bottom on 30 points, two adrift of Middlesbrough who occupy the last safe place.