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Goals have been Manchester United's downfall this season, but against an acquiescent Charlton they rattled up four without reply, closing to within a point of Arsenal, who play at West Brom on Monday night, writes Jonathan Wilson.
United started having scored 17 fewer league goals than Chelsea this season, but with Wayne Rooney imperious and incisive, it looked like they could make up that deficit in a single game. It was hard not to feel sympathy for Stephan Andersen, Charlton's debutant goalkeeper. Andersen, signed from the Danish club AB last summer, was given a chance to prove himself a worthy understudy to Dean Kiely. Charlton's back four made sure he had every opportunity to impress. Andersen made a number of fine saves but it was his error that gave United a 35th-minute lead. Rooney's drive was firmly but not ferociously struck. Andersen fumbled and Paul Scholes knocked in the rebound. The only surprise was that it had taken so long.
Scholes then lunged in horribly on Dennis Rommedahl and was fortunate to escape with a yellow card. Reprieved, he gathered Rooney's pull-back two minutes before half-time and teed up Darren Fletcher, who sidefooted into the bottom corner. Smith, who had not scored since December, added the third after 62 minutes, beating Jon Fortune to a bouncing ball and lofting a calm finish over Andersen. Rooney, who had earlier struck a post, completed the scoring, emerging from a blizzard of passes to flick Kleberson's through-ball into the corner. Chris Perry was sent off with five minutes remaining for denying Wes Brown with a cynical trip.
In Sunday's other Premiership match, Tottenham kept their European hopes alive with a 5-1 win against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane. Spurs raced into a three-goal lead in the opening half with striker Fredi Kanoute hitting a double either side of skipper Ledley King's 18th minute effort. Villa grabbed a lifeline when Gareth Barry converted a spot-kick but Andy Reid unleashed a stunning 25-yard shot in the 66th minute for the fourth and Stephen Kelly put Spurs seventh in the Premiership with a fifth in the last minute.
Two goals from Dado Prso enabled Rangers to move within two points of leaders Celtic and keep the battle for the Bank of Scotland Premier League alive. The Croatian netted his 20th and 21st goals of an impressive campaign to fire his side to a 3-1 victory over Aberdeen at rain-soaked Pittodrie.
* Justine Henin-Hardenne collected her second claycourt title in a month when she defeated Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6 6-2 7-5 to win the Warsaw WTA event.
* Virginia Waters completed a famous Classic double for Aidan O'Brien and Kieren Fallon with victory in the UltimatePoker.com 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday. The pair were successful in the colts' equivalent with Footstepsinthesand on Saturday and the 12-1 shot flew late to capture the fillies' race.
* When the music stopped at the end of the Zurich Premiership's 22-match regular season, it was Harlequins who were left without a chair, writes Huw Richards. The Londoners lost the top-flight status they had enjoyed since England's leagues were started 18 years ago, going down 23-22 at home to Sale. Outside-half Jeremy Staunton missed the final-minute penalty that would have saved them after they had lost a 19-10 half-time lead, Mark Cueto's 72nd minute try for Sale proving crucial. Bristol, whose promotion was confirmed on Friday, will replace them in next season's Guinness Premiership.
Quins' inability to hold a lead reprieved Northampton, who went down 21-19 at Worcester, who went from relegation candidates to potential Heineken Cup qualifiers in the space of 80 minutes, ninth place squeezing them into the wildcard play-offs.
Leicester and Wasps, already in both the final three play-offs and the Heineken, were joined by Sale, who can thank Bath's injury-time 10-6 home defeat - hooker Matt Holt claiming the try - by Leeds for their play-off spot.
Bath, though, secure the more significant prize of a Heineken place alongside Leeds, whose survival after four consecutive league victories confirms the place they won by taking the Powergen Cup, also against Bath earlier last month.
Worcester will go to Saracens, who won 14-13 at Gloucester, to seal fifth place, in the first wildcard semi-final on Friday. The second will be contested on Sunday by Gloucester and Newcastle, giving Jonny Wilkinson at least one more match to prove fitness for Lions duty after an untroubled 80 minutes and six penalties in the 23-16 defeat of London Irish.
Wasps, consigned to second place for the third season running by a 45-10 defeat at Leicester, will entertain Sale on Saturday while Tigers have a weekend's rest ahead of Saturday week's Twickenham final.
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