MANCHESTER: Robin van Persie struck inside three minutes against his former club as Manchester United saw off 10-man Arsenal 2-1 at Old Trafford to go top of the Premier League.
Van Persie spent eight years with the north London club, culminating in last season’s 37-goal campaign. He has carried that form with him to United and his latest effort took his tally this season to 10 in 13 games.
The prolific Dutchman was taunted throughout by visiting fans but reminded them of his talents in the opening moments in a Premier League contest United dominated from the outset.
Wayne Rooney missed United’s fourth penalty of the season but Patrice Evra added a second and Arsenal’s misery was compounded by the sending off Jack Wilshere before Santi Cazorla hit an injury-time consolation.
England midfielder Wilshere had been making only his second appearance for the Gunners after a 14-month injury lay-off.
Van Persie said later: “It was a special day, it was quite a game. I think we played well. We had a few chances, we should have scored two or three more but in the end we’re happy with the three points which is all that matters.”
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “It’s unbelievable. The chances we missed, we really should have put it to bed a long time ago. You look at that scoreline, 2-1, you’d think it was a close game but it wasn’t a close game.I think there was a lack of urgency in our game throughout, we were far too casual.
“It was an unusual Manchester United-Arsenal game. I know there was a lot of bookings but it didn’t really get anywhere near the Manchester United-Arsenal games of the past. It was a strange game. I need to sleep on it.”
England midfielder Wilshere had been in just his second match back after returning from a 14-month injury lay-off.
Chelsea slipped from the top after being held 1-1 away at Swansea for whom Pablo Hernandez struck a late but deserved 88th-minute equaliser. Roberto Di Matteo saw his men put all the controversies of the week behind them by taking the lead through Victor Moses’s 61st-minute header.
Steve Sidwell’s last-gasp goal saw Fulham rescie a 2-2 draw against Everton. Martin Jol’s men looked on course for a fourth home victory in five league matches when they took the lead after Bryan Ruiz’s exquisite 25-yard free-kick came back off the upright before cannoning off Tim Howard’s back and into the net.
But two brilliant goals from Belgian Marouane Fellaini turned the match on its head before substitute Sidwell struck from close range.
Even so Everton edged into the top four becausse Tottenham lost surprisingly by 1-0 at home to Wigan. The Latics, who had won only two of their nine previous fixtures, could have won by more: only the reflexes of Spurs keeper Brad Friedel kept the firsthalf scoresheet goalless.
After the interval, however, the American punched an inswinging Shaun Maloney corner into the path of Ben Watson to volley home.
Bradley Johnson’s first-half header gave Norwich a 1-0 home win over Stoke while Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 57th-minute goal – his first in 29 matches – lifted Aston Villa to a 1-0 win at Sunderland.
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