|Alex Ferguson celebrates landmark victory over Sunderland that keeps pressure on Manchester City [GALLO/Getty]|
Manchester United beat Sunderland 1-0 in the English Premier League on Saturday to mark Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as manager, while Chelsea kept in touch with the leading sides with a 1-0 win at Blackburn.
Also on Saturday, Manchester City remained five points clear at the top of the table after scrapping to a 3-2 victory over Queens Park Rangers. Roberto Mancini’s men went behind early on but fought back to ensure City’s unbeaten run.
Former United defender Wes Brown headed a first-half own-goal, but Ferguson’s 1,409th game was more notable for his club’s announcement that it had renamed Old Trafford’s north stand after him than for anything the players managed on the field.
Frank Lampard’s 50th-minute header and a first clean sheet since the opening day of the season kept the Blues within four points of second-place United. Newcastle remain unbeaten in third place after a 2-1 win over Everton, while Arsenal’s resurgence continued with a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.
Ferguson saw the new sign on the stand for the first time after walking onto the pitch through a guard of honour formed by the teams of United and Sunderland, which was managed by former United defender Steve Bruce.
“I never expected that,” Ferguson said. “It was a real surprise. I have to thank Manchester United for doing that.”
A crowd of 75,570 gave Ferguson an ovation in recognition of 27 major titles including 12 Premier Leagues and two Champions League trophies.
Ferguson reaches his quarter century as manager on Sunday.
Until Lampard’s goal against Blackburn, the most notable incidents at Ewood Park were a banner proclaiming “Steve Kean Out!” fluttering behind a plane flying over the stadium and a bloody nose sustained in a collision by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
“He was in some difficulty but Petr is very prone to these kinds of incidents,” Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas said. “He has had collisions with his head, concussion and now a broken nose.”
With Blackburn fans unhappy with the team’s performance under manager Kean, only 21,985 turned up for Saturday’s match.
Lampard stooped to head in Branislav Ivanovic’s low cross for his sixth league goal of the season, although struggling Rovers had numerous late chances to claim at least a draw.
Robin van Persie continued to set the pace at the top of the scoring charts with his 11th goal of the season to put Arsenal ahead against West Brom.
The Netherlands striker opened the scoring from close range in the 22nd minute after Theo Walcott’s shot had been parried by goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Van Persie cut the ball back for defender Thomas Vermaelen to score the second goal in the 39th and then provided the pass for Mikel Arteta to complete the scoring in the 74th.
Arsenal remain seventh with the win but moved level on 19 points with sixth-place Liverpool, who failed to capitalise on their early domination and drew 0-0 against Swansea. West Brom stayed in 13th place.
Ryan Taylor’s spectacular 29th-minute half-volley over goalkeeper Tim Howard proved to be the difference between Newcastle and visiting Everton.
Taylor’s goal made it 2-0 after John Heitinga’s own-goal had put the home side ahead in the 12th.
Jack Rodwell got a goal back for Everton in first-half injury time but, despite losing Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux to injury, Newcastle held out in the second half to maintain the Premier League’s best defensive record with just eight goals conceded.
Darren Bent scored twice to give Aston Villa a 3-2 win over Norwich in the day’s other match.
Tottenham are at London rival Fulham on Sunday, when Bolton host Stoke and Wolverhampton Wanderers host fellow struggler Wigan.