Liverpool's Martin Skrtel (R) challenges Manchester
United's Danny Welbeck during their English Premier League
match at Old Trafford in Manchester. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Premier League leaders Manchester United and
second-placed champions Manchester City put former English
heavyweights Liverpool and Arsenal firmly in their place, Robin
van Persie again on song for United.
United sealed a needlessly nervy 2-1 home win over
eighth-placed Liverpool to maintain their seven-point lead
after Van Persie with a goal and Patrice Evra with two
assists put rival Luis Suarez in the shade.
In contrast, the game in London was never in doubt with City
winning 2-0 for their first league win at Arsenal in 38
City were given a helping hand by the 10th-minute dismissal
of Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny for wrestling Edin Dzeko to
the ground before James Milner and Dzeko netted before the
Liverpool have had to watch with horror over the last two
decades as big rivals United undisputedly crowned themselves
kings of the English game, trampling over the Anfield side's
legacy after they had shone the brightest in the 1970s and
The first half at Old Trafford, which followed United's 2-1
win at Liverpool in September, suggested talk of the balance
of power should be replaced by whisperings of the huge gulf
in class such was the ineptitude of Brendan Rodgers' side.
Dutchman Van Persie, English football's in-form striker along
with Liverpool's Suarez, grabbed a 19th minute opener when he
swept in Evra's cross in inimitable style.
"Robin van Persie is different class. He produces moments in
the game others can't do and we are glad he is on our side,"
man of the match Danny Welbeck told Sky.
"We had our gameplan and it worked really well in the first
half. They came into it more in the second half but we got
the three points and showed our character."
Forward Welbeck, preferred to the in-form Javier Hernandez in
the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney, justified his start
with some good play although he should have done better twice
in the first half when almost clean through.
Van Persie, who now has 17 goals as the league top scorer,
had another chance just before the break as United overran
their toothless north west neighbours but he oddly chose a
cheeky flick which Martin Skrtel cleared just before the
Uruguay's Suarez, with 15 league goals this term, was often
jeered by the home crowd in a forgettable performance where
nothing went right but he took the sting out of any more
vocal taunts by shaking Evra's hand before kick off.
Suarez failed to do so last season at Old Trafford after
serving an eight-game ban for racially abusing the Frenchman.
The arrival of the lively Daniel Sturridge at halftime for
his Premier League debut after joining from Chelsea and the
fact they somehow went into the break just 1-0 down boosted
Liverpool's confidence in the second half.
It was soon dampened when Van Persie's free kick was headed
goalwards by Evra, prolific for a left back with four goals
this term, and the ball deflected off team mate Vidic before
bulging the net. No Liverpool players appealed for offside
but replays showed the Serbian was just ahead of their
Liverpool's defence and especially Johnson had been found
wanting for the goal but Sturridge dug them half out of a
hole when he struck after 57 minutes when Gerrard's
piledriver could only be palmed into his path by goalkeeper
David De Gea.
England's Sturridge then missed three decent chances as
United boss Alex Ferguson fretted in the dugout and visiting
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, scouting United ahead of
their Champions League clash, raised an eyebrow beneath the
hood he used to shield himself from the cold and the cameras.
As it was, United closed out the win without further alarm.
City were hardly ever in danger at sixth-placed Arsenal and
despite the angry response from the famously placid home
fans, referee Mike Dean had little choice but to dismiss
defender Koscielny for the offending bear hug and award a
Dzeko's spot kick hit keeper Wojciech Szczesny, rebounded off
the post and ran along the line into the Pole's grateful
Arsenal fans, held up coming into the ground because of a
suspect package, could have been forgiven for thinking it
might be their day after all but it soon turned into another
painful game for a team who have not won a trophy since 2005.
City have usurped Arsenal as continual title challengers and
their class against 10 men soon told when Milner rifled in a
smart effort in the 21st minute after a good Carlos Tevez
pass following a quick free kick.
Arsenal supporters also outraged by the free kick award sang
"1-0 to the referee" but that was disingenuous given the
foothold of Roberto Mancini's side and it was soon 2-0.
England midfielder Milner whipped in a cross and though the
keeper stopped Tevez's close range effort, Dzeko could not
Arsene Wenger's team barely threatened with the inconsistent
Theo Walcott isolated up front and proving again that he is
not the finished article by blasting one good chance woefully
City's Vincent Kompany was harshly sent off for a robust
challenge with 15 minutes to go but the second half was
largely a non-event in the cold, somewhere Liverpool and
Arsenal could be for quite some time given United and City's