United bounce back, Cardiff cut Fulham adrift
Manchester United kept their fading hopes of Champions League qualification flickering with a breezy 3-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday.
Goals from Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck gave United back-to-back league wins for the first time since December, following their 2-0 success at Crystal Palace last month.
Victory took the defending champions to within nine points of fourth-place Manchester City, although they have played two more games, while Pepe Mel's West Brom remain just above the relegation zone in 17th place.
"I thought our forward play was very good," United manager David Moyes told BT Sport.
"I thought both Robin (van Persie) and Wayne were excellent today, and Juan Mata and Adnan (Januzaj). But it also needed a good defensive performance as well, so all round we were pleased."
United's last game at The Hawthorns had been Alex Ferguson's final match as manager and his successor was looking for a reaction to his side's shock 2-0 loss to Olympiakos in the Champions League.
After Marouane Fellaini had seen a header cleared off the line and West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster had tipped a header from Rafael da Silva onto his crossbar, United broke through in the 34th minute.
A free-kick wide on the right gave Van Persie an opportunity to whip a cross into the box and Jones stole in front of a clutch of defenders to beat Foster with a glancing near-post header.
In reply, Claudio Yacob and Victor Anichebe each went close for West Brom, but Foster was fortunate to escape censure after he miscalculated an attempt to control a lofted pass from Mata outside his area and the ball struck him on the hand.
West Brom forced United onto the back foot early in the second half, with Zoltan Gera testing David De Gea at his near post and Mata hooking away a low cross from Anichebe.
- Welbeck's killer blow -
However, United tightened their grip on proceedings in the 65th minute, with Rooney nodding in a cross from Rafael at the back post to claim his 11th league goal of the campaign.
Gera worked De Gea again as West Brom probed for a path back into the game, but Welbeck killed off the home fans' hopes of a comeback in the 82nd minute when he ran onto Rooney's through ball to curl a shot past Foster.
Later on Saturday, Chelsea will look to extend their lead at the top of the table by beating Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.
A win would lift Chelsea seven points above Liverpool and Arsenal, who would both then have a game in hand, and nine points clear of fourth-placed Manchester City, who will have three games in hand.
Elsewhere, Cardiff City gave their chances of avoiding relegation a shot in the arm with a 3-1 win at home to Fulham that left their rivals four points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.
Steven Caulker scored twice for Cardiff, either side of a Lewis Holtby equaliser, before Sascha Riether's own goal sealed a victory that left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side below West Brom on goal difference alone.
Palace are only two points better off after losing 1-0 at home to Southampton, who prevailed thanks to a breakaway strike from Jay Rodriguez in the 37th minute.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Walters went from hero to villain for Stoke City in their 1-1 draw at Norwich City.
The Republic of Ireland international converted a 73rd-minute penalty to cancel out Bradley Johnson's header, but was then sent off for an ugly foul on Norwich midfielder Alexander Tettey.