Blues climb back to the top of the English Premier League as Arsenal draw at Villa.
|The win puts United within one point of Chelsea at the top [GALLO/GETTY]|
Champions Manchester United delivered a devastating statement of Premier League title intent by beating rivals Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium while Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor marked his return from a deadly attack in Angola with a goal as Manchester City beat Portsmouth.
United produced a superb attacking display, taking the lead when Nani’s cross was turned into his own net by goalkeeper Manuel Almunia after 33 minutes before Wayne Rooney started and finished a stunning counter-attack four minutes later.
Park Ji-sung got the third seven minutes into the second half and Arsenal had only Thomas Vermaelen’s deflected volley 10 minutes from time to show for their efforts.
Chelsea, who won 2-1 with a late goal at Burnley on Saturday, top the standings on 54 points, one ahead of United and five clear of Arsenal. Chelsea have a game in hand on both rivals and play it against Hull City in midweek.
Two months ago Arsenal lost 3-0 at home to Chelsea to drop 11 points off the pace and cause many pundits to write off their chances.
A 10-game league unbeaten run since, alongside setbacks for Chelsea and United, enabled them to fight their way back into the race and added to the air of expectation before Sunday’s match.
The game did not disappoint with both sides showing total commitment to attack from the start.
Andrei Arshavin escaped three times down the left but finished poorly on each occasion while Nani, enjoying a rare run of games, looked highly dangerous down the United right.
It was the Portuguese winger who made the breakthrough with a brilliant piece of trickery to get past three Arsenal defenders and when he hoisted over a deep cross, Almunia, trying to turn it over the bar, only flapped it into the net.
The second goal was a classic as United snuffed out an Arsenal attack in their own penalty box and broke.
Rooney turned the ball into the path of Nani before sprinting 70 metres to collect the return and sweep it in first time.
It was the 100th English Premier League goal of the 24-year-old England striker’s career and came just over seven years after he opened his account with a stunner for Everton against Arsenal when he was 16.
United’s third was another long-range break and hesitant defending allowed Park to travel from halfway before slotting calmly past Almunia for his first goal of the season.
Vermaelen’s deflected volley 10 minutes from time led to a brief flurry but United held out and could have added to their own tally when Rooney, who delivered yet another wonderful all-round display, shot just wide in stoppage time.
United will be hugely buoyed by completing the league double over Arsenal but Arsene Wenger’s side will need to bounce back immediately at Chelsea next Sunday followed by a home game against Liverpool.
In Sunday’s other game, Adebayor marked his return to the Premier League after Togo’s traumatic time at the African Nations Cup with the opening goal in Manchester City’s 2-0 win over bottom club Portsmouth at Eastlands.
Vincent Kompany headed the second at the end of the first half as City won without breaking sweat to close on Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the battle for fourth place.