Manchester United's Robin Van Persie (right) shoots to score against Wigan Athletic during their English Premier League soccer match at the DW Stadium in Wigan, northern England. Photo by Reuters
Manchester United striker Robin van Persie bagged a
contrasting double in a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic to hand
Roberto Mancini another painful reminder of why he looks the
difference in the title race.
Mancini's Manchester City did their job by winning 3-0 at
home to Stoke City but the Premier League champions remain
seven points behind rivals United following Van Persie's
masterclass, with Tottenham Hotspur up to third after a 3-1
win over Reading.
Dutchman Van Persie was pinpointed by Mancini in the
pre-match buildup as the reason why United may snatch back
their title and the former Arsenal hotshot continued 2013
where he left off in 2012, curling in a beauty just before
A late tap-in took Van Persie's total to 16 league goals this
season as the leaders powered on to 52 points from 21 games,
their best tally at this stage in six years.
Arch poacher Javier Hernandez, who had one effort ruled out
for offside, gave United the lead at lowly north west rivals
Wigan when he slotted the ball in after Patrice Evra's effort
was saved in the 35th minute.
The Mexican then grabbed his second after 63 minutes to
underline his abilities as an able deputy to the injured
The New Year brought a rare goal for City defender Pablo
Zabaleta before in-form Edin Dzeko doubled the lead after the
break to show Mancini that his strikers are still top class
despite the failure to sign Van Persie from Arsenal in
Sergio Aguero, who later limped off, squeezed in a penalty to
make it 3-0 after Steven N'zonzi had clipped the heels of
David Silva - possibly outside the area.
"Today we did a good performance," Mancini told Sky Sports.
An usually fragile Stoke were completely outgunned by City
for most of the first half, much as Aston Villa were at
Swansea City as their run of three defeats while conceding 15
goals and scoring none looked set to continue before they
sealed a 2-2 draw.
Wayne Routledge rounded the goalkeeper to give the Welsh side
a deserved advantage but Paul Lambert's young Villa team
summoned some fighting spirit after a difficult few weeks and
Austrian Andreas Weimann netted just before the interval.
Christian Benteke then coolly converted an 84th-minute
penalty after Nathan Dyer's foul but 16th-placed Villa's
victory hopes were denied by a stoppage-time leveller from
Spurs moved back up to third, pending Chelsea's home game
against bottom club Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday at
7.45pm (local time), despite going behind early to second
bottom Reading at White Hart Lane.
Pavel Pogrebnyak netted after four minutes after reacting
quickest when Ian Harte's free kick came back off the
Michael Dawson quickly equalised with a header from a corner
before Emmanuel Adebayor leapt to head in his first league
goal of the season and Clint Dempsey added a late deflected
Fulham winger Alex Kacaniklic secured a 2-1 win at
high-flying West Bromwich Albion to end a sorry run of
results for the Londoners who had gone in front through
Dimitar Berbatov after 39 minutes.
West Brom improved markedly after the break and on-loan
Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku is likely to see increased
media speculation about a possible recall by parent club
Chelsea this month after capping a superb display with a
The hosts then hit the post twice but 13th-placed Fulham
would not be denied and Swedish winger Kacaniklic expertly
spun on the edge of the area before stroking the ball home 13
minutes into the second half.
Mid-table West Ham United eased to a 2-1 home win over
stuttering Norwich City.
Southampton were hosting Arsenal in the late game (5.30pm
local time)) with Chelsea's fixture one of three matches
scheduled for Wednesday.