Manchester: Manchester United ensured that they took the Premier League title race into the final day of the season with a routine 2-0 victory over Swansea at Old Trafford, with Paul Scholes and Ashley Young among the goals.
After a nervy opening twenty minute period from the hosts, they were put ahead after Scholes managed to turn in Michael Carrick's scuffed shot from inside the box past the despairing Michel Vorm. Ashley Young added a second just minutes before the break, clinically dispatching a loose ball into the far-right corner after some kamikaze defending from Swansea.
The second half followed a very similar pattern to the first, with United well on top for long spells, and failing to put the game to bed despite creating a whole host of chances, with Javier Hernandez the main culprit in a wasteful display.
The game may be best remembered for being the final time that Dimitar Berbatov strutted his stuff in a Manchester United shirt, after making a cameo appearance off the bench, as the game run its course in a game that will not live long in the memory.
Sir Alex Ferguson made three changes to the side that lost the crucial derby match against Manchester City and added a more attacking dimension to their starting eleven with the aim of bridging the goal difference gap. Javier Hernandez, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia all returned to the side in place of Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung and Nani, while Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck missed out altogether through injury.
Brendan Rodgers made just two changes to the side that were held to a thrilling 4-4- draw against already relegated Wolves with Mark Gower replacing the injured Leon Britton and Angel Rangel preferred to Andrea Orlandi in defence.
The game began at a frantic pace, but neither side were able to carve open the opposition with any real conviction and only a blocked Wayne Rooney shot and a speculative effort from Nathan Dyer which sailed high over the bar were worthy of note in the opening quarter of an hour period.
With the visitors working hard off the ball and comfortable when in possession, United were struggling to find their fluency which only added to the flat atmopshere at the ground after rivals City received a huge boost after they secured victory away from home against Newcastle United earlier on in the day as they closed in on the title.
Vorm was forced into a smart double-save in the 21st minute, though, after Patrice Evra's angled volley from the edge of the box after a Michael Carrick corner was pushed away, and then the Dutch goalkeeper turned Wayne Rooney's follow-up behind for another corner, which nothing subsquently came of.
A decent move from Swansea saw Danny Graham get off a snap-shot while under pressure from Rio Ferdinand moments later before the hosts took the lead in the 27th minute through Scholes.
Scholes began the move in the middle of the park, spraying the ball out wide to Valencia, with the winger leaving Swansea left-back Neil Taylor for dead before cutting back a superb ball from the byline. The Ecuadorian's pass found Carrick unmarked 12 yards out from goal, but as the midfielder scuffed his effort into the ground, a deft flick from Scholes just in front of Vorm turned it goalwards and handed Ferguson's side the lead.
In the very next move, they should have gone two goals up, after some excellent work down the right by Valencia again found Carrick bursting into the box, and his low arrowed centre across goal was missed by the onrushing Hernandez with the goal gaping.
With the game becoming increasingly open around the half hour mark, Young had a strong penalty appeal turned down after Angel Rangel appeared to catch the winger as he went past him. From the resulting corner, Hernandez nodded well over from inside the six-yard box when it looked easier to score rather than miss.
Phil Jones, starting at right back, then burst in off the flank after playing a lovely give-and-go with Valencia, before firing straight at Vorm from wide on the edge of the area with the angle slightly against him.
United extended their lead even further in the 40th minute through Young. The visitors were guilty of trying to over-complicate things by playing the ball out from the back and Joe Allen suicidally passed the ball to Valencia, who played it inside to Rooney, who then saw his shot well blocked by Ashley Williams. However, the ball fell kindly to Young's feet inside the box, who looked up and curled a low effort past the outstretched fingertips of Vorm and into the bottom right-hand corner to hand the hosts a two-goal advantage.
With Rodgers side simply not at the races, Smalling then went close right before the break nodding over from another decent Young corner, and the visitors were fortunate to go in at half-time just the two goals behind.
The visitors made one change at the break, with Mark Gower taken off and Britton coming on in his place, with the second half carrying on much in the same vein as the opening period, with the Swans happy to sit back and try and catch United out on the counter-attack.
In the 50th minute, David De Gea had to be alert to turn behind a stinging Gylfi Sigurdsson strike from the edge of the area after Allen had released Dyer away down the right with a superb ball over the top.
From the resulting corner, though, United broke away at pace and only a marvellous bit of covering from Dyer prevented Young from turning the ball in at the far post after some tidy work from both Valencia and Rooney.
Hernandez continued his prolifigacy in front of goal minutes later as he headed narrowly over unmarked inside the six-yard box from a Jones cross after an encouraging spell of possession from United in the opposition's final third, as they chased a confidence-boosting return on their dominance.
On the hour mark, with the hosts cruising, Valencia went close to adding a third after a decent delivery in from the left by the rampaging Evra, but it was dealt with calmly by Vorm, who collected the winger's side-footed effort with ease.
But Swansea still posed a threat on the break and they should have reduced the deficit in the 63rd minute when Dyer blazed over high, wide and not so handsome after collecting Sigurdsson's cute diagonal pass into the area, before rounding Smalling and curling well over De Gea's bar.
With the game petering out into little more than a training exercise, and the result already something of a foregone conclusion, the lively Sigurdsson forced De Gea into a decent stop low at his near post in the 70th minute to provide some food for thought for the home side's relatively untroubled defence.
United were still real threatening every single time that they poured forward, though, but they only succeded in providing further evidence of why they find themselves eight goals behind City on goal difference in the league in the race for the title. Rooney spurned a great chance after collecting Carrick's sublime first-time pass from outside the box before angling his finish wide of the far left-hand post in the 73rd minute with Vorm well beaten.
Berbatov came off the bench in the 78th minute to replace Rooney up front in what looks set to be his final appearance at Old Trafford, with the Bulgarian likely to be moved on in the summer, but there was to be no fairytale ending to his four-year spell at the club, with the 31 year-old largely ineffective.
Despite testing Vorm with a number of efforts from distance, most notably through Tom Cleverley and Valencia, Swansea managed to keep the scoreline down in what was an extremely flat performance from the visitors.
For Manchester United, though, while the three points keep their already slim title hopes alive, they failed to fully punish Rodgers side leaving them a crucial eight goals further back on rivals City on goal difference on a day when they were more than capable of filling their boots and reducing the deficit in what will ultimately go down as a missed opportunity for the champions.