Manchester United put the boots to Chelsea

Defending champion Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford in a marquee Premiership showdown Sunday.

Defending champion Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford in a marquee Premiership showdown Sunday.

Defender Nemanja Vidic and forwards Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov scored for the Red Devils, who closed to within a point of second-place Chelsea.

Liverpool, held to a 0-0 draw on the road by Stoke City on Saturday, leads the standings with 46 points ahead of Chelsea's 42 points.

United, tied for third with Aston Villa (41 points), has two games in hand on Liverpool, Chelsea and Villa.

Vidic put United in front just before the end of the first half when the Serb scored on a header of Berbatov's flick-on from a Ryan Giggs corner kick.

"Normally these games are so tight it's hard to pick the winner," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "Getting the goal just before halftime really helped us."

Vidic's strike came one minute after Cristiano Ronaldo's goal was disallowed.

Giggs delivered a cross that Rooney converted after Rooney took a disguised short corner by nonchalantly rolling the ball into play with the underside of his boot, but the referee ruled out the goal because he had not given permission for the corner to be taken.

Rooney made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute, scoring from close range after French defender Patrice Evra delivered an inch-perfect cross from the left wing into the box. The goals was Rooney's ninth of the season.

Berbatov sealed the win with three minutes left in regulation to give Chelsea its heaviest loss in two years.

United has not conceded a goal in eight Premier League matches.

After the game, Ferguson took a swipe at Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.

During a Friday news conference, Benitez claimed Ferguson goes unpunished after he publicly criticises the referees and claimed the league is conspiring against Liverpool.

"I think you've got to cut through the venom of it and hopefully he will reflect and understand what he is saying is absolutely ridiculous," Ferguson said. "But I think he is an angry man who is disturbed for some reason or another."

In Sunday's other Premiership game, defender Maynor Figueroa scored his first goal for Wigan in injury time to give his team a 1-0 home win over Tottenham.

With Spurs scrambling to cover a corner kick, Figueroa, on loan from Deportivo Olimpia in his native Honduras, headed in a corner by Ryan Taylor at the near post.

Striker Jermain Defoe, who has rejoined Spurs after leaving for Portsmouth, had quite a game for the London club.

Wigan consolidated its hold on seventh place with the win, while Tottenham is now winless in its last five games and sits in relegation zone in 18th place with 20 points, just two points ahead of Blackburn and West Brom.

Spurs beat Wigan 3-1 in the FA Cup earlier this month.

With files from Associated Press