Hernandez header helps United down off-tune Everton

Hernandez header helps United down off-tune Everton

Leaders extend lead to nine points

United, held 0-0 at Newcastle United in midweek, looked on course for another stalemate until the Mexican forward leaped high to head home an Antonio Valencia cross and edge his side closer to a record 19th championship title.

United, who visit Schalke 04 in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday, have 73 points with four games to play.

Chelsea are second on 64, with Arsenal, away to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday, also on 64.

Manchester City, who visit Blackburn Rovers on Monday night, are fourth on 56 with fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on 54 ahead of their home game against West Bomwich Albion on Saturay.

Seventh-placed Everton were unbeaten in seven league games going into the match but their record at Old Trafford is dire. Their last win there came in 1992 -- when a 19-year-old Ryan Giggs was in the United side.

They did little to indicate they would end that drought on Saturday but, well-organised and hard-working defensively, they kept United at arm's length for much of a sweltering afternoon.

Hernandez had a sharp shot beaten away by Tim Howard after half an hour and seven minutes later Valencia broke down the right and squared for Nani but the Portugal winger's goal-bound shot hit Hernandez.

Everton rarely threatened but when Jack Rodwell unleashed a fierce low shot, a diving Edwin van der Sar was equal to it.

United, beaten in the FA Cup semifinals by Manchester City a week ago, lacked fizz but after hitting a post in the 74th minute when a low cross flew off the knee of Everton defender Sylvain Distin they upped the pressure.

Howard did well to claw away a Hernandez header after 80 minutes but soon after he was caught flat-footed as the striker nicknamed Chicharito, or Little Pea, rose to power in his point-blank header.

United have won 16 and drawn one of their 17 home league games. Victories in their next two league matches would secure the title with two games to spare but they are unlikely to be easy -- away to Arsenal and at home to Chelsea.

"We just kept going," United boss Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. "We played some really good football, we had some good openings and could have had the game won by halftime.

"But in time-honoured Manchester United fashion we don't do that. We went to the very end and kept everyone on the edge of their seat but we get there. "We kept going against a very good Everton team. I think we can be very pleased today."