United sweep aside Bolton

Bolton Wanderers 0 Manchester United 4

Sir Alex Ferguson's calculated gamble paid off as Manchester United remained on top of the Barclays Premier League even without the services of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.

Ferguson admitted the England duo would both have been risked at Bolton tonight had United's need been dire.

Instead, with Saturday's crunch clash with Chelsea splitting a Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich, the Red Devils chief took the decision to let the pair nurse a bruised foot and groin injury respectively.

In their absence, Jlloyd Samuel came to United's aid, breaking the deadlock in bizarre fashion seven minutes before the break with their 11th own goal of the season.

After weathering a severe Bolton storm immediately after half-time, Ferguson's men cut loose, responding to the seven goals Chelsea scored earlier in the day.

Dimitar Berbatov bagged a double before Darron Gibson lashed his first touch beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen to emphasise United are not quite the one-man team many pundits believe.

When news of the teams filtered through an hour before kick-off, one wag suggested in Rooney's absence it was time for 'own goals' to start pulling his weight again.

United had 'scored' 10 of them before Christmas and number 11 was suitably gift-wrapped.

Seven minutes from the break, having equalled their visitors for much of the contest, Bolton must have breathed a sigh of relief as Ryan Giggs, having galloped onto Nani's overhead pass, drilled a low cross beyond lone front-man Dimitar Berbatov.

Although Antonio Valencia was in the vicinity, Samuel seemed to have an easy task to clear.

Instead, the full-back slotted the ball back beyond a startled Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the bottom corner.

It was a quite amazing act, that got no better for repeat viewing.

Chelsea might argue scoring seven - or 12 in a week - is the mark of champions. Ahead of their crunch encounter at Old Trafford next Saturday, the Red Devils could counter that good fortune is required along with a touch of class.

Aside from the goal, Bolton had the best chances of a first half that ended on a pretty sour note.

Jack Wilshere's superb through-ball to Johan Elmander allowed the Swede to bring an excellent low save out of Edwin van der Sar.

Within a minute of Samuel's mishap, the veteran Dutchman did even better to tip Fabrice Muamba's goalbound effort over after the excellent Wilshere had created the opportunity.

Shortly afterwards, referee Martin Atkinson, having ruled Van der Sar was time-wasting as he went to collect a ball Bolton were entitled to given it was their corner, waved play on with the Dutchman still off the field.

The half-time whistle that eventually followed brought Atkinson a confrontation with Ferguson, who had been appalled by an earlier Sam Ricketts tackle on Patrice Evra that went unpunished.

In another part of the field, Nani and Ricketts had to be separated.

Tempers calmed during the interval, although with physical confrontation inevitable given Bolton's style, Owen Coyle is slowly starting to change, there was always an edge to the contest.

That only brings out the best in Nemanja Vidic, who with Ferdinand missing was an imposing presence at the heart of United's defence.

Vidic won virtually every aerial challenge as Bolton peppered the visitors' penalty area.

But, thanks to their teak-tough Serb, United held firm until play quickly switched to the other end and Jaaskelainen was unable to hold Darren Fletcher's firm drive, allowing Berbatov to tap home his 11th goal of the season.

Having already beaten United once this season, when he was still in charge at Burnley, Coyle must have known there was no chance of a repeat.

United were not finished. Often in the past Ferguson has spoken of the importance goal difference might one day play in the title shake-up.

Having suffered a swing of 11 in four days, they decided it was time to react.

Nani was the creator for Berbatov to slot home his side's third and the in-form Portugal winger also teed up Gibson, who drilled his first touch past Jaaskelainen.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism