LONDON: Manchester United maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League by winning easily 4-0 at Wigan on two goals apiece from Javier Hernandez and the magnificent Robin Van Persie.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, ahead of the new year’s day programme, had said that Van Persie’s move to Old Trafford rather than Eastlands during the summer represented the difference between the neighbours.
At least Mancini kept United in sight thanks his own team’s 3-0 home victory over a Stoke side who showed little belief or ambition. Tottenham, with Chelsea not in action, moved up into third place by recovering from an early Reading strike at White Hart Lane, to win 3-1.
United had few problems overcoming Wigan. Mexican striker Hernandez, standing in for the injured Wayne Rooney, also had a goal disallowed before making the breakthrough after 35 minutes at the DW Stadium.
Van Persie doubled United’s lead in the 43rd minute and it was the Dutchman’s free-kick that ballooned up to present Hernandez with his chance to net again in the 63rd minute.
The Mexican striker’s volley ended Wigan’s hopes of any reward and Van Persie fired a late fourth as United passed the 50-point mark, taking their haul to 52 from 21 games this season.
Full-back Pablo Zabaleta inched Manchester City towards a 3-0 win against Stoke when he scored in the 43rd minute at the Etihad Stadium.
Edin Dzeko doubled the lead after 56 minutes when Sergio Aguero saw a shot pushed out, and Aguero fired a 74th-minute penalty to complete the scoring after Steven Nzonzi fouled David Silva.
Tottenham climbed to third place, a point ahead of Chelsea who have two games in hand, after their 3-1 home win over second-bottom side Reading.
Andre Villas-Boas saw his side fall behind to a Pavel Pogrebnyak effort in the fourth minute, but Michael Dawson headed the hosts level in the ninth minute and Emmanuel Adebayor edged them ahead six minutes into the second half.
Clint Dempsey made the points safe, with his shot benefiting from a deflection to beat Adam Federici for the third Tottenham goal in the 79th minute.
Arsenal lost ground in the race for Champions League spots after struggling to create chances in a 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Gaston Ramirez fired the Saints in front on 34 minutes, but Arsenal were level before half-time when Guly diverted a Theo Walcott free-kick into his own net.
Danny Graham cracked home a late equaliser for Swansea against Aston Villa to earn a 2-2 draw.
Visitors Villa had fallen behind to Wayne Routledge’s ninth-minute finish, after he surged clear of a static defence to round goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
But the outlook improved for Paul Lambert’s side just before the break when Andreas Weimann netted an equaliser in the 44th minute.
Christian Benteke’s penalty after Nathan Dyer’s foul on Weimann put Villa ahead, as they looked to banish memories of dismal recent results. But Graham had the final say, his powerful finish with time running out sparking delight among home supporters at the Liberty Stadium.
A third-minute penalty from Mark Noble and Joey O’Brien’s strike in the 26th minute helped West Ham to a 2-1 victory against Norwich at Upton Park. Russell Martin pulled one back for Norwich late in the second half but the Canaries could not find a leveller.
Fulham eased their relegation worries as Alexander Kacaniklic’s second-half goal earned them a 2-1 win at West Bromwich.
The Cottagers had slid towards the bottom three after winning only one of their previous 12 games but were well worth their second away success of the campaign.
Dimitar Berbatov’s seventh goal of the season gave the Cottagers a half-time lead and although Romelu Lukaku levelled after the break, Kacaniklic restored the visitors’ advantage in the 58th minute.
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