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Premier League

Tevez helps United regain top spot

Manchester United 2 Manchester City 0

Carlos Tevez delivered the most personal message possible to Sir Alex Ferguson as he helped Manchester United move to within four points of an 18th league title.

After admitting this morning that his future almost certainly lies away from Old Trafford, Tevez drilled home a superb first-half shot before racing away to celebrate, alone, in a very pointed manner, right in front of his manager.

Not only was the goal a perfect way for the South American to express his frustration at a move that now looks destined not to happen, it also snatched at the straw Liverpool were clutching at, with United knowing another win at Wigan on Wednesday will virtually clinch a record-equalling 18th championship.

The Tevez situation is somewhat complicated, far more than just whether Ferguson thinks he is any good.

After all, any United player deciding the eve of a crucial game on the title run-in was a good time to air public views on his future, or lack of it, would normally be good enough reason for Ferguson to exclude him altogether.

Tevez though is a crowd favourite and a player of extreme talent.

So, with Wayne Rooney needing a rest, the South American must have been one of the first names on the home team sheet as United searched for the first three of the seven points required to clinch the title before Liverpool next play.

The United fans have made their feelings perfectly clear for a long time now, bellowing 'Sign him up' at regular intervals.

However, it has to be asked whether, in the present economic climate, £30 million can be justified on a player like Tevez, a bustling, energetic whizzball of a striker, yet one who does not possess the extra class of a Ronaldo.

Yet, having declared the likelihood of him leaving, confirming in the process that United had not so much as made him an offer to stay, Tevez had clearly decided this was the day to make a statement.

The former West Ham star had already curled a shot against the post when he collected Dimitar Berbatov's short pass a minute before the break.

He took aim and fired, gleefully watching his shot crash into Shay Given's net off the Irishman's left-hand post.

Tevez's reaction was instant. He raced straight to the halfway line, directly in front of the dug-outs, waving away all team-mates, and stood, cupping his hands to his ears listening to the cacophony of noise.

Directly opposite, Ferguson celebrated too, a rueful smile spreading across his face. Above him, chief executive David Gill looked down, knowing he will be the one who has to ask for - and then write - the cheque should the Glazer family agree Tevez's registration should be extracted from Kia Joorabchian.

At that precise moment, an 18th league championship had almost been forgotten.

As Ronaldo had already found the net with one of his blockbuster free-kicks though, United fans spent half-time knowing they were taking a significant step towards it, Liverpool's hopes evaporating on the back of a City side who played good football without threatening the home goal.

Mark Hughes knows all too well the standards United have been performing to for almost two decades now.

Hughes does seem to have got the balance of his own team right. But there is clearly still a very long way to go before they can compete for anything more than scraps off the world champions' table.

Indeed, if Tevez's prodding goes unheeded by United, it is a fair bet the Welshman was listening too as he assessed the next move forward for his club, who still harbour hopes of a place in the new Europa League.

Ronaldo's 26th goal of the season was a corker. Only 30 yards this time the distance as the Portugal superstar belted home his 18th-minute opener.

His delight did not last that long as, on the hour, he was replaced by Wayne Rooney.

The decision did not go down well. Ronaldo's future has also been the subject of intense speculation of course and he angrily swiped at some TV equipment before taking a seat in the dug-out, shaking his head in clear annoyance at the decision even though, injury permitting, he is certain to face Barcelona later this month.

A further problem arose for Ferguson in an apparent hamstring injury suffered by Jonny Evans, who was only called into battle himself when Rio Ferdinand suffered a calf injury in training yesterday.