| Ruud van Nistelrooy heads in Manchester United’s first goal against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford Saturday. (Reuters)
London, April 19 (Reuters): Manchester United beat Blackburn Rovers 3-1 to stay three points clear at the top of the Premier League Saturday as rivals Arsenal won 2-0 at Middlesbrough.
United, with three games remaining, lead the way on 74 points after two goals for Paul Scholes and one for Ruud van Nistelrooy did the damage.
Arsenal, with a game in hand, are on 71 after French duo Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry were on target in the second half at The Riverside.
The chase for the other two Champions League places took a twist as Chelsea, Newcastle United and Everton all lost.
Newcastle stay third on 61 after a 1-2 reverse at Fulham with Chelsea, 1-2 losers at Aston Villa, fourth on 60.
Liverpool move up to fifth on 58, above Everton (56) after beating their city rivals 2-1.
West Bromwich Albion were relegated despite a 2-1 win at bottom club Sunderland, who were already down, while West Ham United look destined to join them in the first division after losing their relegation dogfight with Bolton Wanderers 0-1.
Birmingham made sure of their safety with a 2-0 win at Charlton Athletic while in the day’s other game FA Cup finalists Southampton beat Leeds United 3-2.
Manchester United faced a difficult test against Blackburn who had beaten them at Ewood Park in December and who had done the double over Arsenal.
The visitors looked lively and after van Nistelrooy had headed United into a 20th-minute lead Blackburn deservedly levelled through Henning Berg after Fabien Barthez had flapped unsuccessfully at a cross.
Scholes restored the lead late in the first half and added his second on the hour — but only after substitute goalkeeper Ricardo had marked his Premier League debut by conceding, then saving, a penalty.
Arsenal took a long time to get going against a Middlesbrough side who had little to offer in attack.With United ahead they needed to up the pace in the second half and they duly did so three minutes after the restart with a sidefooter by Wiltord.
Liverpool revived their hopes of a top-four finish after winning an important Merseyside derby for years.