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By ESPN Staff

Chelsea crush United to win title again

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - Chelsea retained the Premier League title when they crushed second-placed Manchester United 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The victory put Jose Mourinho's side 12 points clear of United with two games to play.

Defender William Gallas gave Chelsea a perfect start, nipping in to head past Edwin van der Sar after four minutes following a Frank Lampard corner.

A magnificent individual goal from midfielder Joe Cole just past the hour mark made it 2-0 and Ricardo Carvalho finished off a sweeping move with a fierce shot after 73 minutes to put the title party in full swing.

The one blot on the occasion was United and England striker Wayne Rooney being carried off on a stretcher after a heavy fall in the 78th minute that left him clutching his foot in pain.

Rooney left the stadium on crutches with United manager Alex Ferguson confirming the 20-year-old had injured his foot, describing it as 'sore'.

'It's a fantastic feeling...that's the second in England after two in Portugal,' Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports, before captain John Terry lifted the trophy.

Mourinho also won successive titles in his native Portugal with Porto, as well as the Champions League.

'Last season no one believed we would win, last season we were six, seven points ahead and still people doubted,' he said.

'This year, in December, people were already saying we were champions.'

'Manchester United were fantastic and I think today the result doesn't show how difficult it was for us.'

Champions for the first time in 50 years last season, Mourinho's men have carried on where they left off last term by combining rock solid defending with a relentless attack, striking from either midfield with Lampard or from the front with Didier Drogba.

Terry led a back line that looked almost invulnerable, helping Chelsea to win their opening nine games of the season and to remain unbeaten until going down to United at Old Trafford in early November.

At the turn of the year, they led United by nine points, an advantage that increased, despite a 3-0 drubbing at Middlesbrough, to 18 by mid-March.

Chelsea's multi-national mixture of doughty defence and speedy counter-attack led by rotated wingers Dutchman Arjen Robben, Ireland's Damien Duff and Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips of England proved a winning formula.

But Mourinho worried that leading the table from so early in the season might cause problems with motivation later.

Alex Ferguson's side, with games in hand, began to chip away with a long winning run of their own and Chelsea dropped points against lowly Fulham and Birmingham.

The lead was whittled down to seven before Chelsea replied with renewed spirit, beating West Ham 4-1 on April 9 after scoring all their goals while a man down following the sending off of Portugal midfielder Maniche.

United were unexpectedly held to a 0-0 draw by Sunderland and Chelsea capitalised by winning the rest of their games to move within a point of the title before Saturday's showdown.