Sir Alex Ferguson has set Manchester United the task of winning four more games to assure themselves of the Barclays Premier League title while United’s 1-0 win at Sunderland, their seventh on the trot, proved the undoing of Stadium of Light boss Martin O’Neill, who was sacked last night.
Manchester City reduced the deficit a few hours later with their 4-0 victory over Newcastle, courtesy of Carlos Tevez, David Villa, Vincent Kompany and an own-goal from James Perch. The two meet at Old Trafford next weekend and Ferguson said: “We have got to win four games, I think, to get there.”
The win, secured by Titus Bramble’s 27th-minute own-goal, extended United’s run to 18 league games unbeaten, taking 50 points from the last 54.
Rafael Benitez saw his hopes of steering Chelsea back into the Champions League suffer a serious blow as Southampton claimed another prize scalp. Rickie Lambert’s 35th-minute free-kick proved enough to seal a 2-1 win at St Mary’s after an early opener from Jay Rodriguez had been cancelled out by a header from John Terry.
Tottenham leapfrogged Chelsea into third place with a 2-1 win at Swansea, while Arsenal narrowed the gap to just two points after crushing Reading 4-1. Gareth Bale set up Jan Vertonghen for his seventh minute opener then flicked home a superb 21st-minute effort. Michu had given Swansea hope with a 71st-minute header.
Nigel Adkins’ first game as Reading boss was one to forget as his side dropped to the bottom of the table on goal difference. Gervinho, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and a Mikel Arteta penalty sealed the win, Hal Robson Kanu netting Reading’s consolation.
Kevin Mirallas kept Everton’s bid for Champions League football alive with the only goal to increase Stoke’s worries as their slide continued.
The Belgium international’s sixth goal of the season was enough for David Moyes’ side.
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan moved out of the relegation zone thanks to a late strike from Aruna Kone to beat Norwich 1-0 at the DW Stadium.
Andy Carroll scored twice as West Ham eased their own relegation fears with a 3-1 win over West Brom at Upton Park. Carroll headed a 16th-minute opener and after Gary O’Neil made it 2-0 Carroll added his second after 80 minutes. Scotland midfielder Graham Dorrans pulled one back for Albion.