Shinji Kagawa Hat Trick Keeps United on Course for 20th Title

Manchester United tramples Norwich City on path to the Premier League title.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Shinji Kagawa’s hat trick and a stunning goal from Wayne Rooney maintained Manchester United’s march to the Premier League title yesterday, while Rafa Benitez was spared a fierce backlash from Chelsea fans in the team’s 1-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion.

United moved 15 points clear at the top with a 4-0 thrashing of Norwich City at Old Trafford, with Japanese midfielder Kagawa opening the scoring just before halftime. He grabbed two more well-taken goals to become the first Asian player to score a hat trick in England’s top division.

Rooney garnished the scoreline with a long-distance screamer in injury-time as United warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League match against Real Madrid in style. Second-place Manchester City plays Aston Villa tomorrow.

Chelsea moved into third place thanks to Demba Ba’s 28th-minute winner, giving “interim” manager Benitez some respite after his midweek tirade against the club’s fans and board that appeared to leave him in a precarious position.

The hostility among the home support was expected to be cranked up, but the atmosphere was relatively calm inside Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the serenity to secure a crucial win in its battle for a Champions League spot.

“There were a lot of positives,” Benitez said. “The reception from the crowd was quite good. I wanted everybody to stick together.”

Tottenham, which slipped to fourth, hosts fifth-place Arsenal in the north London derby today.

Last-place Queens Park Rangers boosted its survival hopes by winning 2-1 at Southampton to move three points adrift of Reading, which lost 3-1 at Everton.

Swansea’s first game since winning the League Cup final last weekend was a 1-0 victory at home to Newcastle, with Luke Moore scoring a late winner, while Sunderland came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Fulham.

West Ham stopped its slide into relegation trouble by beating Stoke 1-0 away.

In yesterday’s late game, Liverpool thrashed Wigan 4-0, Stewart Downing opened the scoring after two minutes, with Luis Suarez grabbing a hat trick.