- Premier League round-up
Kagawa hat-trick for United, Benitez's Blues up to third
Ryan Giggs was made to wait for his 1,000th career appearance as Manchester United extended their lead to 15 points at the top of the Premier League table, on a day when Rafael Benitez gave his critics little to shout about as Chelsea beat West Brom.
Liverpool had Luis Suarez to thank for a thumping victory over Wigan, while Everton continue to be in the top-four hunt. But Reading remain in deep trouble, after QPR ignited their own survival hopes against Southampton.
Manchester United need only 19 points from their remaining 10 games of the season to lift the title after a routine 4-0 victory over Norwich at Old Trafford. Giggs, who is on the cusp of his 1,000th game for club and country, was left out of the matchday squad, but United still had enough firepower with a hat-trick from Shinji Kagawa making the difference before Wayne Rooney completed the rout.
Ferguson ignored the temptation to rest his stars ahead of the Champions League showdown with Real Madrid, starting both Rooney and Robin van Persie against the Canaries. They had to wait until the 45th minute for a breakthrough though, Kagawa producing a smart finish after Van Persie had guided the ball in his direction.
Norwich barely offered a threat to the league leaders and they were finished off 13 minutes from time, Kagawa finding another classy finish to a flowing move as thoughts turned to Madrid. Kagawa may well have played himself into Sir Alex Ferguson's thoughts for that European tie, completing his treble in the closing minutes, before Rooney dropped a shoulder and lashed home a beauty for the fourth.
Rafael Benitez risked angering Chelsea fans midweek by telling them they are "wasting time" jeering him instead of backing the team, but he gave them little reason to moan with a 1-0 triumph over West Brom at Stamford Bridge. A solitary strike from Demba Ba lifted the Blues back above Tottenham in third, boosting their hopes of securing Champions League football.
Benitez had been forced to dispute claims of a fallout with John Terry during the week, but the Chelsea skipper again found himself on the bench alongside Fernando Torres - who made way for Ba. And it was the former Newcastle forward who scored the winner from six yards, converting easily after David Luiz nodded Oscar's centre back across goal.
It was comfortable thereafter for Chelsea, although more abuse came the way of Benitez as sections of the home crowd sang "stand up if you hate Rafa". Peter Odemwingie did threaten late on but Chelsea were worth the three points.
In the day's evening kick-off, Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Liverpool routed a part-lacklustre, part-unfortunate Wigan Athletic 4-0.
The Reds needed barely three minutes to open the scoring, as good work from January signing Philippe Coutinho ended with the Brazilian floating a pinpoint cross to the far post that Stewart Downing delighted in heading home.
Coutinho was again instrumental as Suarez got his first of the game soon after, the former Inter player slipping a pass into the forward, who gratefully accepted it before turning a shot beyond Ali Al-Habsi. The Uruguayan then made it 3-0 just before half-time in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, as he saw his tame free-kick deflect off Shaun Maloney and squeeze under the sloppy Al-Habsi.
Wigan did have their chances during the game - which also saw James McArthur get into an unsightly argument with team-mate Emmerson Boyce - but Pepe Reina was up to the challenge at every turn, as Suarez completed the rout (and his hat-trick) after running onto Glen Johnson's through-ball and slipping his effort between the goalkeeper's legs.
Everton are within six points of fourth-placed Tottenham after they saw off Reading 3-1 at Goodison Park, leaving the Royals a point adrift of safety at the bottom. Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas were on the scoresheet for David Moyes' men, who are six clear of neighbours Liverpool.
The Toffees started well on home soil with Nikica Jelavic close to finding an opener, but it was Fellaini who made the breakthrough after Seamus Coleman stood up a lovely cross for the Belgian.
Pienaar doubled Everton's lead on the hour when he drove at Ian Harte before finding the corner, and he then turned provider for Mirallas to net the third. Hal Robson-Kanu netted a consolation for the Royals, but the comeback specialists left themselves too much to do in the closing stages.
QPR remain the only side beneath Reading in the table, but they are now only four points from safety after a potentially crucial 2-1 triumph at Southampton. Harry Redknapp's side saw Loic Remy's strike cancelled out by Gaston Ramirez, but Jay Bothroyd found a priceless winner in the 77th minute.
Redknapp had his major January signing back in the starting line-up at St Mary's and it took 13 minutes for Remy to leave his mark, latching onto a diagonal ball before slamming it past Artur Boruc off the underside of the bar. However, Saints were level by the break when Julio Cesar spilled Jay Rodriguez's shot, allowing Ramirez to dink a cute finish into the visitors' net.
It appeared QPR were heading for a barely satisfactory draw, but Park Ji-sung made inroads down the flank before finding Bothroyd, who fired new hope into Rangers' survival bid.
Swansea's homecoming party following their Capital One Cup success threatened to be spoiled by Newcastle, but Luke Moore struck 10 minutes from time to claim a 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans moved eighth with victory, while Newcastle have further cause to look over their shoulders towards the drop zone.
Elsewhere Sunderland, six points from safety, are yet to feel comfortable about planning for life in the Premier League next season after they drew 2-2 at home to Fulham. A highly controversial Dimitar Berbatov penalty - which appeared to be awarded after a change of heart by the referee - opened the scoring for the Cottagers, who doubled their lead when Sascha Riether completed a fine counter-attack.
However, another soft penalty award - this time for a nudge on Danny Graham, allowed Craig Gardner to half the deficit before the break, and then Stephane Sessegnon's long distance effort found its way past Mark Schwarzer for the equaliser.
And in the day's other three o'clock kick-off, Stoke suffered a 1-0 defeat to West Ham at the Britannia Stadium. Jack Collison netted the winner on the stroke of half-time for the Hammers.