City thrill as United, Chelsea scrape by
Manchester United celebrated the 25th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson's appointment with a 1-0 win over Sunderland as Manchester City maintained their five-point lead with a 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers.
Sunderland's United old boy Wes Brown handed victory to his former manager, heading in an own goal on 45 minutes to settle a lacklustre Premier League encounter at a packed Old Trafford. Ferguson had earlier been given a guard of honour by both teams as he walked out onto the pitch before club officials revealed the north stand had been renamed in his honour.
But the celebratory mood fell flat after kick-off as United struggled to break down Sunderland, managed by former United captain Steve Bruce. Ferguson later said he believed his players had been affected by the emotion of the occasion.
"It was an anxious day for the players and I think they showed that today. They improved in the second half, but the last 15 minutes was torture," Ferguson said. "Possibly the occasion got to the players. The players wanted to do well for me, I think that was obvious, but these occasions can be a bit like that."
Ferguson said United - who have now registered four consecutive clean sheets since their 6-1 derby thrashing by City last month - were now preparing for a decisive part of the season after next week's international break. "This is a pivotal moment for us because we now have three and a half months with no interruptions -- we can really kick on and have a go now," he said.
City fightback denies QPR
City later took the gloss of the celebrations at Old Trafford with a battling 3-2 victory over newly-promoted QPR at Loftus Road. Goals from Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Yaya Toure secured all three points for Roberto Mancini's men, who remain unbeaten in the league and have now reeled off eight straight wins in all competitions.
QPR had given City a scare after taking a first-half lead through Jay Bothroyd before Dzeko equalised. A clever Silva goal gave City a 2-1 lead, but Rangers battled back to level through Heidar Helguson before a towering Toure header settled it for City.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United maintained their superb unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 victory over Everton at St James Park. The Magpies, who remain unbeaten after 11 games, sealed their third consecutive league victory courtesy of a John Heitinga own goal and a spectacular Ryan Taylor volley.
Everton pulled one back through Jack Rodwell on the stroke of half-time, but the Toffees were unable to salvage a positive result after the break.
Chelsea bounce back
Chelsea ended their mini-slump with a first victory in three league games against Blackburn Rovers, Frank Lampard scoring the game's only goal to relieve the pressure on manager Andre Villas Boas as the Blues won 1-0.
Lampard struck on 51 minutes, stooping to head home a neat cross from Branislav Ivanovic as Chelsea remained in fourth spot, six points off the lead.
Arsenal's recent revival continued to gather pace as the Londoners brushed aside West Bromwich Albion 3-0 at the Emirates, Robin van Persie scoring one and helping create Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta goals.
The win saw Arsene Wenger's team move up one place to sixth, leapfrogging Liverpool who were held to a 0-0 draw by newly promoted Swansea City at Anfield.
A thrilling mid-table battle at Villa Park saw Aston Villa overcome Norwich City 3-2 with English striker Darren Bent scoring twice to help sink the Canaries. Norwich stunned Villa on 25 minutes, Anthony Pilkington curling in a sublime free-kick from 22 yards. However, Villa hit back moments later, Bent stabbing home Gabriel Agbonlahor's low cross for the equaliser.
Villa took the lead on 48 minutes after a dreadful blunder by Leon Barnett, the Norwich defender's backpass letting in Agbonlahor, who bundled home. Bent extended Villa's lead on 62 minutes before Steve Morison pulled one back on 77 minutes to ensure a tense finale.