Manchester United strengthened their grip at the top of the Premier League as they extended their lead over champions Manchester City to 12 points with victory over Everton at Old Trafford.

Ryan Giggs continued his run of scoring in 23 consecutive league seasons with the opening goal before Robin van Persie netted his 19<sup>th domestic goal of the campaign prior to the break.

The win damages Everton's Champions League qualification hopes with six points separating them from fourth place Tottenham Hotspur, while the win puts United on the brink of a 20<sup>th league title success after City's defeat at Southampton on Saturday.

Ryan Giggs
Giggs opened the scoring against Everton.

In front of Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, who was in the crowd ahead of Wednesday's European Cup last 16 first leg, United began quickly against a side who had helped dismantle their title hopes last season in the corresponding fixture.

The Toffees had recovered from 4-2 down to snatch a point at the Theatre of Dreams last term, but the manner in which United began, spurred on by City's trials 24 hours previous, suggested they were in no mood to be complacent.

And after Antonio Valencia and Van Persie combined, Giggs opened the scoring after 13 minutes, passing the ball in off the post past Tim Howard, to score in his 23<sup>rd consecutive campaign, and retain the record of having netted in every Premier League season to date.

The league leaders' advantage was doubled on the brink of half time as Van Persie sprung clear, rounded Howard, before slotting home despite Johnny Heitinga's desperate block.

Jonny Evans should have made it three but was twice denied by Howard and then substitute Nikica Jelavic on the line.

The Croatian striker had Everton's best opportunity on the second period, his shot deflecting off Nemanja Vidic before David de Gea turned away the effort.

But United were able to see out the win without alarm as they took a firmer grip at the Premier League's summit.

Earlier, Aston Villa surged out of the bottom three with a victory over West Ham United, whose away day blues continued at Villa Park.

After Andreas Weimann's horror miss in the first half, the game seemed to be fizzling out until Mark Noble clumsily fouled Charles N'Zogbia in the penalty area, allowing Christian Benteke to hand Villa the lead.

And N'Zogbia's contribution didn't end there, with a neat free-kick from 20 yards doubling the lead, and despite Ashley Westwood's late own goal, Paul Lambert's side secured a much needed win which further exposed The Hammers' problems on the road.