LONDON – Manchester United remained two points clear at the top of the English Premier League on Sunday as Manchester City moved up into second place in the table.
Dimitar Berbatov's double saw United beat Sunderland 2-0 at Old Trafford while City, who were third on goal difference at the start of the day, won 3-1 at Newcastle in a match where controversial striker Carlos Tevez scored twice.
Tottenham stayed fifth after Rafael van der Vaart scored both goals in a 2-1 win at Aston Villa during a match where they played more than an hour with 10 men after England striker Jermain Defoe was sent-off for elbowing James Collins in an aerial challenge.
Arsenal, who started the weekend in second, and fourth-placed champions Chelsea — now just a point ahead of Spurs — will look to maintain their title challenges when they meet at the Emirates Stadium on Monday.
United were ahead as early as the fifth minute when Ryan Giggs's run saw him find Wayne Rooney, whose cross was headed in by the unmarked Berbatov at the far post.
United had several chances to double their lead before Bulgaria striker Berbatov made it 2-0 in the 57th minute when his shot delected off Sunderland's Anton Ferdinand — brother of United's Rio.
“Dimitar could have scored four or five today,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said of his striker, who now has 13 league goals this season. “He had some terrific opportunities.”
United are the only unbeaten team in the league with 10 wins and seven draws and Ferguson added: “We are getting that consistency, particularly in our defending. These are good signs for us.”
Two defensive blunders saw Manchester City go 2-0 up inside five minutes at St James' Park thanks to goals from Gareth Barry and Tevez.
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul's poor clearance was cut out by Tevez and the striker released Barry who scored from inside the area.
Argentina forward Tevez made it 2-0 just three minutes later after Cheik Tiote gave the ball away.
Tevez pounced and fed James Milner before getting on the end of the midfielder's return cross.
Newcastle got back into the match when striker Andy Carroll headed in a Joey Barton corner in the 72nd minute.
However, Tevez sealed City's win nine minutes from time when, after linking with Adam Johnson, his shot deflected off Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini.
City manager Roberto Mancini was pleased by the way his side bounced back from their defeat by Everton on Monday.
“We started the game very well and it was important we won this game,” Mancini said.
Van der Vaart gave Spurs a 23rd minute lead at Villa Park when he turned in Alan Hutton's cross but four minutes later Defoe saw red.
Nevertheless, the visitors saw Dutch playmaker van der Vaart add a superb second goal in the 67th minute when he finished a sweeping counter-attack featuring Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
Eight minutes from time Villa hit back when what appeared to be a cross by Marc Albrighton found its way into the net.
“Losing Jermain Defoe made it difficult but we kept the ball well in the first half and at half-time I said 'we'll hit them on the break' because we've got pace with Aaron and Gareth Bale, and we did,” said Spurs manager Harry Redknapp.
Disappointed Villa boss Gerard Houllier added: “Eleven against ten, we should have come back into the game earlier but the second goal killed us.”
West Ham moved off the bottom with a 3-1 win at Fulham as Wolves were left propping up the table after a 2-1 loss at home to relegation rivals Wigan.
England striker Carlton Cole scored two goals for West Ham, cancelling out an opener from Fulham's Aaron Hughes before concluding the scoring after Frederic Piquionne put the Hammers in front.
At Molineux, Wigan went ahead in the ninth minute when Hugo Rodallega volleyed in a corner.
They doubled their lead 11 minutes later when Rodallega turned provider to find Tom Cleverley, on loan from Manchester United, who slid in their second goal.
Wolves scored through Steven Fletcher three minutes from time but it was too little too late.
Bolton were fifth for a couple of hours before Spurs' victory, with a 2-0 win at home to West Brom secured by a goal in each half from Matt Taylor and Johan Elmander.
Stoke moved up into eighth with a 2-0 away win at Blackburn.
Robert Huth headed in a 51st minute corner before Marc Wilson's last-minute strike secured all three points.
Blackpool's match at home to Liverpool was postponed because of a frozen pitch while Everton's game against Birmingham also fell victim to the weather.
– AFP /ls
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