Manchester United beat 10-man Queens Park Rangers 2-0 yesterday to extend its advantage atop soccer’s Premier League to eight points as second-place Manchester City lost 1-0 at Arsenal.
Wayne Rooney, with a penalty kick, and Paul Scholes got goals for United, which is seeking a record-extending 20th championship. QPR’s Shaun Derry was red-carded after 14 minutes. A Mikel Arteta goal gave Arsenal its victory against City, which had Mario Balotelli dismissed late on.
“The sending-off didn’t help us at all,” United manager Alex Ferguson told MUTV. “I was actually more confident before that in terms of the speed of our play and the movement of the team which was very good. The second goal from Scholes calmed everyone down.”
United has 79 points, City remains on 71, with third-place Arsenal on 61. Tottenham has 59, with Chelsea and Newcastle on 56.
United has now taken 34 points from a possible 36 since suffering back-to-back losses to Blackburn and Newcastle and is on a run of eight straight league victories. City is on a three-game winless run.
At Old Trafford, the defending champion pinned QPR back in its own half in the early stages, with goalkeeper Paddy Kenny needing to make a save from a Rooney free kick.
United took the lead after Ashley Young fell under a challenge by Derry and a penalty was awarded. Referee Lee Mason also decided to dismiss Derry, with Rooney converting the spot kick for his 29th goal of the season.
“The boy’s just got a little tug on Young, not a great deal but enough to get us the penalty,” Ferguson said. “And unfortunately he was the last defender and had to be sent off.”
The hosts continued to apply pressure, but QPR’s defense held out for the remainder of the first half, with Patrice Evra, Danny Welbeck and Scholes all failing to get shots on target.
Welbeck put the ball into the net in the opening minute of the second half, although his effort was ruled out for offside.
Kenny made more saves from Rooney, Rafael and Welbeck before Scholes scored his third goal since ending his retirement in January. The 37-year-old former England midfielder fired a 25-yard shot past Kenny at 68 minutes after Rafael stole the ball from QPR’s Adel Taarabt.
Michael Carrick almost added a third goal for United, but his long-range shot smashed against a post and bounced clear.
The defeat leaves QPR on 28 points, only outside the three-team relegation positions on goal difference ahead of Blackburn and Wigan. Last-place Wolverhampton Wanderers are a further six points back. Bolton is one point ahead of QPR, with Aston Villa on 34 points.
“I am really pleased with what we produced even if the game as a contest was over after 15 minutes,” QPR manager Mark Hughes told reporters.
A low 25-yard shot from Arteta after 87 minutes condemned City to its defeat at the Emirates Stadium in north London. Two minutes later, Balotelli was red-carded after receiving his second caution of the match.
City manager Roberto Mancini told reporters after the match that Balotelli is unlikely to play for the club again this season and he may look to sell the striker.
“Every time, we risk one sent off, like today, but he can score also in the last minute,” Mancini said. “I am finished. We have six games and he will not play in the next six games.”
Aaron Ramsey should have increased Arsenal’s advantage in injury time as the Gunners quickly broke forward, but he fired wide.
Arsenal had created the most opportunities throughout the match. Robin van Persie had a goalbound header on 16 minutes that hit teammate Thomas Vermaelen and the bar and he came even closer in the second half with a header against the base of a post.
Theo Walcott had a shot tipped against a post by City goalkeeper Joe Hart on 76 minutes, with Vermaelen and Yossi Benayoun unable to force the ball into the net.
Mancini refused to admit defeat in the title race.
“No, it’s not mathematically over, but it’s clear now that it’s very difficult,” Mancini told Sky Sports. “Never say never in football.”
The bottom five teams all lost this weekend, while Villa tied 1-1 at Liverpool. Wolves lost 2-1 at Stoke, Blackburn was beaten 3-0 by West Bromwich Albion, Bolton was defeated 3-0 by Fulham, and Wigan lost 2-1 against Chelsea.
In other games, Tottenham tied 0-0 against Sunderland, and Norwich drew 2-2 with Everton. Newcastle beat Swansea 2-0 on April 6.