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Monday, Dec. 17, 2012

United's star tandem fuels victory over Sunderland


LONDON — Manchester United stayed in control of the English Premier League by beating Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday, keeping Manchester City at arm's length following the champion's impressive win at Newcastle by the same scoreline.

News photo
Get a leg up: Manchester United's Robin van Persie kicks the ball during the Red Devils' 3-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday at Old Trafford. AFP-JIJI

Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney — United's in-form strike partnership — teamed up to preserve United's six-point lead, both scoring at Old Trafford to add to a sublime strike by midfielder Tom Cleverley.

City recovered from its agonizing derby loss to United last weekend by winning at St. James' Park, courtesy of goals by Sergio Aguero, Javi Garcia and Yaya Toure, but United's victory ensures Alex Ferguson's side will be top at Christmas.

"Some of our football was very good and we could have scored lots of goals," Ferguson said. "We will try and keep the momentum going and consistency going."

Liverpool's resurgence was ended with a surprise 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa, Everton drew 1-1 at Stoke in a match marred by an apparent headbutt by visiting midfielder Marouane Fellaini on Ryan Shawcross, and Queens Park Rangers climbed off the foot of the table by beating Fulham 2-1 for its first victory in 17 matches this season.

"At least it keeps us in there," QPR manager Harry Redknapp said. "If we hadn't won today, it would have been absolutely desperate."

Reading occupies the bottom spot ahead of its home match against Arsenal on Monday.

Also on Saturday, Norwich claimed a fifth straight home win by beating Wigan 2-1, lifting the team into seventh place and just two points off the Champions League positions.

With van Persie and Rooney firing in the goals, United looks an unstoppable force at present.

Van Persie's 12th goal of the season — tied for the most in the league with Swansea midfielder Michu — set the 20-time champions on their way in the 16th minute and Cleverley made it 2-0 three minutes later. Van Persie set up Rooney to wrap up the win in the 59th minute, giving United breathing space and Ferguson an opportunity to substitute in captain Nemanja Vidic for his first game since September.

"It will take him a bit of time but that is a start," Ferguson said. "He is a warrior and he is our captain."

Frazier Campbell's 72nd-minute consolation against his former club sparked a late fightback by Sunderland that didn't produce any more goals.

City had put the pressure on hours earlier, producing some fine soccer to take a 2-0 lead at halftime through Aguero's tap-in and Garcia's header from a corner.

The champions conceded a header by Demba Ba early in the second half and then had to weather an onslaught by Newcastle before Toure clinched victory 12 minutes from time.

"It's important because when you come from a defeat — any defeat, but particularly against United — it's important to start to win quickly, and we started here, where I don't think a lot of teams can win," City manager Roberto Mancini said.

"The season is long. He (Ferguson) knows football better than me. He knows that this championship is not finished."

Wilshere discusses plans


LONDON — Jack Wilshere has given Arsenal a timely boost by revealing that he is in talks about signing a new contract with the club.

The London side was eliminated from the League Cup by fourth-tier Bradford City on Tuesday and has fallen well off the pace in the Premier League ahead of Monday's trip to bottom club Reading.

Wilshere's return from long-term injury has been a rare bright spot in a testing season and he says he is on the verge of extending his commitment to the club.

"I am talking to the club and I probably will be committing my future to the club in the next couple of weeks," he said.

"I know the team are going through a bad stage at the moment, but that is like any team."

Arsenal's on-pitch travails have seen manager Arsene Wenger come under scrutiny, but Wilshere believes it is too soon to write the season off.

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