United, Arsenal gain ground
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Wayne Rooney went from hero to villain and back to hero again as English Premier League champions Manchester United won 3-1 away to Hull City on Sunday.

Victory left second-placed United just two points behind leaders Chelsea, who could only manage a goalless draw against Birmingham on Saturday, with England striker Rooney involved in all four goals. Rooney put United ahead on the stroke of half-time at the KC Stadium with a close range finish after Ryan Giggs touched on Darren Fletcher's cross

But second-bottom Hull equalised on the hour though a Craig Fagan penalty. Rooney's poor backpass was intercepted by Fagan and following his cross, Jozy Altidore was bundled over at the far post by United defender Rafael. Referee Alan Wiley, accused in October by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson of not being fit enough for Premier League football after his side's 2-2 draw with Sunderland, signalled a penalty and Fagan sent Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way from the spot.

I don't believe it's too bad, he (Fabregas) doesn't think it's too bad.
Arsene Wenger on Fabregas' hamstring injury

But Rooney made amends for his earlier error with an excellent cross that Hull's Andy Dawson put through his own net in the 73rd minute and he then set up fellow striker Dimitar Berbatov, who tapped in United's third goal eight minutes from time.

Earlier, Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to score twice as Arsenal defeated top-four rivals Aston Villa 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium. Victory left third-placed Arsenal four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand over their fellow Londoners. Villa stayed fourth but defeat ended the Midlands club's eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Gunners captain Fabregas fired the home side in front with a superbly struck 25-yard free-kick in the 65th minute. And with nine minutes left, the Spain international midfielder crowned a fine move to make it 2-0. However, Fabregas aggravated an existing hamstring injury in the process and, after just 28 minutes on the pitch, he was taken off before Abou Diaby added a third goal in stoppage time. "I don't believe it's too bad, he (Fabregas) doesn't think it's too bad," said manager Arsene Wenger after the game.

Saturday saw Roberto Mancini's reign as Manchester City manager begin with a 2-0 win over Stoke. City's first match since they controversially sacked Mark Hughes lifted the Abu Dhabi-backed club back to within three points of the top four place targeted by former Inter Milan boss Mancini. "I'm very happy because we won a hard match," Mancini said. "The players were fantastic."

Chelsea stumble
But it was another frustrating day for fellow Italian Carlo Ancelotti as Chelsea endured a stalemate against Birmingham, a result that left the table-toppers with just one win from seven matches in all competitions.

Liverpool moved to within five points of a top four finish with a 2-0 win over struggling Wolves at Anfield, captain Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun scoring after the visitors stand-in left-back Stephen Ward had been sent-off for two bookable offences.

Meanwhile Tottenham's push for a top four finish stalled in a goalless draw away to capital rivals Fulham. West Ham clawed their way out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over basement club Portsmouth secured by Alessandro Diamanti's penalty and a goal from Radoslav Kovac. Elsewhere the Lancashire derbies between Burnley and Bolton and Wigan and Blackburn both ended in 1-1 draws, as did Everton's match away to Sunderland.