Manchester United revived its Premier League title defense with a 1-0 win over leader Arsenal as Robin van Persie scored against his former team for the third straight game.
The Dutch striker headed in Wayne Rooney’s corner kick in the 27th minute at Old Trafford. In yesterday’s other matches, Tottenham Hotspur lost 1-0 to Newcastle United and Manchester City was upset 1-0 at Sunderland, which moved three points off the bottom of the table. Swansea drew 3-3 at home with Stoke.
Manchester United’s win lifted the defending champion up to fifth place in the standings, five points off the lead, as City and Spurs stumbled. Defeat would have left the Red Devils 11 points adrift in the title race.
“We knew we’d have to win at all costs,” Rooney told Sky Sports. “We defended really well and, thankfully, Robin got the three points. It was a great effort from everyone.”
Arsenal has 25 points after 11 of 38 games, followed by Liverpool (23), Southampton (22) and Chelsea (21). United, Everton and Tottenham all have 20 points.
Arsenal, which beat Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in its most recent games, was hit by illness yesterday, with Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky replaced by Thomas Vermaelen and Mathieu Flamini.
Both defenses looked assured in the early stages before United took the lead against a team seeking its first trophy since 2005.
Van Persie made a run toward the near post, catching the defense off guard as he sent a glancing header from Rooney’s corner into the far corner of the net.
United’s Phil Jones was yellow-carded after a clash of heads with Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who stayed on the field after getting medical attention. United defender Nemanja Vidic also sustained a head injury and was substituted by Tom Cleverley, with Jones moving into defense.
Rooney had a chance to double United’s lead on the hour mark, though dragged his left-foot shot just wide.
Arsenal came more into the game, and United defender Chris Smalling had to deal with threats from Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs. In the closing moments, Nicklas Bendtner was unable to get a touch on Bacary Sagna’s cross in Arsenal’s last chance to tie the game.
“This was a big result for us,” said United manager David Moyes. “Arsenal have been in terrific form this season and we had to play very well ourselves. In the end, our whole determination, effort and good play helped us in the second half when we were under more pressure.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said his team felt the effect of its recent matches.
“We had to give a lot this week, Liverpool, Dortmund and here today,” he said. “It’s difficult to lose the game. We conceded a goal on a set-piece. In a big game, that made the difference.”
Loic Remy went around Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel to score for Newcastle in the 13th minute at White Hart Lane in London before Tim Krul kept Tottenham out almost single-handed.
The visiting keeper made 14 saves in what he described as “the highlight of my career,” and was mobbed by his teammates at the end of the game.
Friedel was playing in place of Hugo Lloris, who was rested after sustaining a head injury a week ago.
Phil Bardsley got Sunderland’s goal against City in the 21st minute. He broke down the left and held off James Milner before cutting back to send a right-foot shot into the net.
City put Sunderland under severe pressure at times. Sergio Aguero headed wide from close range and had a shot palmed away by goalkeeper Vito Mannone as the Black Cats held on to send City to its fourth league loss of the season, all on the road.
“I am concerned because we are losing too many points away,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini told reporters. “That makes it hard to fight for the Premier League.”
In Swansea, Jon Walters and Stephen Ireland gave Stoke a 2-0 lead by half time. Swansea came back with goals by Wilfried Bony and Nathan Dyer and went ahead on Bony’s second goal, only for Charlie Adam to tie the game with a stoppage-time penalty.
Two days ago, Liverpool routed Fulham 4-0, Chelsea drew 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace tied 0-0 with Everton. Southampton beat Hull 4-1, West Ham United lost 3-1 at Norwich, and Aston Villa defeated Cardiff 2-0.