Man United extend Premier League lead with ‘crazy’ win
All seven goals scored in first 34 minutes of Reading match, while boos ring out at Arsenal and Chelsea
Manchester United stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to three points after what Wayne Rooney described as a “crazy” 4-3 win away at Reading.
The seven goals came in the first 34 minutes as United fought back three times from a goal down. The takes them three points clear of Manchester City, who were held 1-1 at home to Everton.
Rooney scored twice for United, along with Anderson and Robin van Persie, and the England striker summed up the feelings of all present when he said: “It was crazy out there - it was not good defending at set-pieces and it could have cost us… when you look back at it, it was like a basketball match, which maybe delighted the neutral fan.”
It certainly didn’t delight United manager Alex Ferguson, who afterwards laid into his back four for conceding three goals in 23 minutes: “It was really bad defending, the worst we’ve been this season. We need to sort that out because we deserved to be battered tonight but the strikers rescued us.”
Nonetheless, having seen City held earlier in the afternoon, Ferguson was pleased with the outcome: “I knew how important this game was, having known the results today, but this was a real cliffhanger for us. It was fantastic we got the points.”
City maintained their unbeaten start to the season but a share of the spoils with Everton - a Carlos Tevez penalty equalising Marouane Fellaini’s header - leaves them with some work to do over the Christmas period if they’re to overtake United. "If you don't pay attention you can lose three points,” said City manager Roberto Mancini. “In the end we are not happy but the season is long and this doesn't change anything.”
Elsewhere and will Rafa Benitez still be a job by Christmas? Not if Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat away to West Ham is anything to go by. The Spaniard, who replaced Robert Di Matteo as the Blues boss a fortnight ago, has now gone three games without a victory, extending Chelsea’s winless run in the Premier League to seven matches.
Though Juan Mata put them one up on 13 minutes, West Ham hit back in the second half with three goals in the last half hour. Carlton Cole, Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga all scored for the home side to plunge Chelsea into crisis less than six weeks after they led the Premier League.
Chants of "sacked in the morning" and "there’s only one Di Matteo" rang out at the end of the game as Chelsea fans made clear to Roman Abramovich their displeasure at the havoc he’s wreaked at the club.
Benitez faced an awkward interrogation at the post-match press conference and he admitted his side’s performances haven’t been good enough of late. "We have to improve on the pitch and the fans will be happy," Benitez said. "We know we have to win games, to change things around. I will not think about other things. I will think about my next game, in the Champions League, we will try to win and see what happens."
The result means Chelsea are now 10 points adrift of leaders United, while West Ham are in eighth but just four points behind their London rivals.
Meanwhile Chelsea aren’t the only London club in crisis. Two goals in the last two minutes from Swansea striker Michu condemned Arsenal to a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates, and the Arsenal fans jeered their team down the tunnel at the final whistle having first applauded the visitors off the pitch.
It was a stunning win for the Swans, and a stunning defeat for the Gunners, one that increases the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger. Arsenal have won just one of their last six league matches and now lie in tenth spot, their hopes of challenging for the title in tatters.
Asked to explain away yet another spineless display from his side, Wenger told reporters: "I believed we tried very hard to get back into the game, but we weren't sharp enough. We didn't create enough chances, we will work on it.”
The boos at the end of the game weren’t the only sign of fans’ discontent at Arsenal’s worst start to a Premier League season since 1994-95. There was also a protest at the start of the match about the way the club is being run, but asked about that Wenger said: “I don't want to get involved in that…[but] our fans cannot be happy when we do not win games and what we produced today is not enough to keep our fans happy."
In other results West Bromwich Albion suffered their second defeat in four days, going down 1-0 at home to Stoke. Dean Whitehead scored the all-important goal on 75 minutes to hand Stoke their first Premier League away win of the season.
The result means WBA slip down to fifth, with Tottenham leapfrogging them into fourth spot courtesy of their 3-0 defeat away at Fulham.
Sando opened the Lilywhites’ account on 55 minutes, and then two goals in five minutes from Jermain Defoe ensured Tottenham’s winning run continued.
Liverpool notched only their third home win of the season thanks to a first-half goal from centre-back Daniel Agger. That was enough to give his side all three points and leave Southampton rooted in the relegation zone.
But QPR remain at the foot of the table after their 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa. In what was Harry Redknapp’s first home game in charge, Brett Holman scored for the visitors after just eight minutes before Jamie Mackie levelled ten minutes later.