Manchester United came from behind three times to beat Newcastle United and extend its English Premier League soccer lead over Manchester City to seven points.
United won 4-3 at Old Trafford yesterday on goals by Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Robin van Persie and a 90th-minute strike by Javier Hernandez. City lost 1-0 at Sunderland, while third- place Chelsea beat Norwich 1-0 and Gareth Bale scored a hat trick in Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Aston Villa.
Hernandez scored United’s winning goal with a close-range half-volley from Michael Carrick’s pass. Twenty four of the Red Devils’ 46 Premier League points at the halfway point of the season have come in games in which they trailed, according to Opta Sports.
“It’s a really significant result for us,” United manager Alex Ferguson said in a televised interview. “It puts us in a good position. As I always say of December, it’s a month that tells you everything. And when we come to the end of the Wigan game on January 1, we’ll still be top of the league.”
The record 19-time English champion, which drew with Swansea last weekend, was without striker Wayne Rooney because of a knee ligament injury that will sideline him for as many as three weeks, Ferguson said. Striker Danny Welbeck and winger Ashley Young also were unavailable to face Newcastle.
“We are running out of ammunition,” added Ferguson, who had been unhappy at an own goal given against Evans for Newcastle’s second score.
Defending-champion City lost ground to United following its defeat at Sunderland, with Adam Johnson scoring the game’s only goal against his former club.
“It’s important that our strikers start scoring more goals, sometimes we take one touch too many,” City manager Roberto Mancini said in a televised interview. “We missed five or six chances in the first half, and we need to score first in games sometimes. We can’t recover all the time.”
Juan Mata’s 38th-minute goal secured the win at Norwich that keeps Chelsea in third place, four points behind City.
Tottenham climbed up two spots to fourth after Wales winger Bale scored three times to help Spurs inflict a second straight heavy defeat on Aston Villa, which was routed 8-0 by Chelsea on Dec. 23. Jermain Defoe got Tottenham’s other goal.
“He is showing tremendous skills and talent,” Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said of Bale after the forward lifted his goal tally this season to 10. “He is improving every day.”
Arsenal’s home game against West Ham yesterday was postponed earlier because of planned strike action by London Underground train drivers.
Queens Park Rangers’ match against West Bromwich Albion was delayed 15 minutes after the visiting team’s bus got stuck in traffic in the U.K. capital. West Brom won 2-1, thanks partly to an own goal by QPR goalkeeper Robert Green.
Reading moved above QPR on goal difference at the bottom of the standings following a scoreless home draw against Swansea. Everton beat Wigan 2-1 and Fulham tied Southampton 1-1.
Jon Walters scored twice as Stoke City rallied to beat Liverpool 3-1 in the late game and move up to eighth place. Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool a second-minute lead with a penalty kick before goals by Walters and Kenwyne Jones put Stoke in front with 12 minutes gone.
Walters sealed the win four minutes into the second half with his club-record 18th Premier League goal as Stoke extended its unbeaten league run to nine games.
“This team’s about hard work,” Walters said in a televised interview. “At 1-0 down, we showed character to get back in the game.”
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