Manchester United stay ahead with 3-1 win over Sunderland

And at the other end of the table, Harry Rednapp's QPR finally get their first win of the season

BY Bill Mann LAST UPDATED AT 09:08 ON Sun 16 Dec 2012

THE TWO Manchester clubs stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League with comfortable wins. Manchester United had little trouble disposing of Sunderland at Old Trafford, while Manchester City cruised to a 3-1 win away at Newcastle. The victories mean United maintain their six-point advantage over the Sky Blues while they are now a staggering 13 points clear of third place Chelsea, currently in Japan playing in the FIFA World Club Cup.

United's 3-1 defeat of Sunderland came a couple of hours after City had closed the gap to three points with their victory at Newcastle in the lunchtime kick-off. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring after 10 minutes and Javi Garcia made it 2-0 shortly before the break. Though Demba Ba got one back for the Magpies six minutes into the second half, City sealed the three points when Yaya Toure fired home from close range on 78 minutes.

"Today it was difficult," said City manager Roberto Mancini, explaining that the loss to Manchester United last weekend had prayed on the players' minds all week. "After that defeat we needed to start quickly and the guys were really good. All of the players played very well and it could have been six or seven as we missed many chances to score.”

But if Mancini was hoping United might slip up against Sunderland he was to be disappointed. Alex Ferguson's side were in control from the off against the Black Cats with Robin van Persie (above, left) opening the scoring on 16 minutes. Three minutes later Tom Cleverley doubled the hosts' advantage and Wayne Rooney added a third midway through the second half. Fraizer Campbell headed a consolation goal for Sunderland in the final quarter but it was all the visitors had to cheer them on a day when they slipped to 16th in the table.

"For an hour we were fantastic,"said Ferguson later. "Some of our football was very good and we could have scored lots of goals… we will try and keep the momentum and consistency going. Hopefully by the time New Year is over we'll still be top of the league."

In other results Everton missed the chance to draw level on points with Chelsea as they were held 1-1 away to Stoke. The Toffees took the lead in the first half when Potters captain Ryan Shawcross headed into his own net but Kenwyne Jones levelled for Stoke seven minutes into the second-half.

Meanwhile Norwich continued their impressive league form with a 2-1 defeat of Wigan, the Canaries' tenth consecutive game without defeat. Anthony Pilkington put Norwich ahead on 15 minutes but Shaun Maloney equalised for Wigan with a long-range effort not long after the break. But it was Wes Hoolahan's header that won the game for Norwich and moved them up into seventh spot, ahead of Arsenal who slip to eighth ahead of their match on Monday at Reading.

Liverpool slumped to a miserable 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa. Christian Benteke put Villa ahead on 29 minutes and, after Andreas Weimann had added a second, up popped Benteke again to make it 3-0. Steven Gerrard put Liverpool on the scoresheet three minutes from the end but it was scant consolation for a Reds side well beaten at Anfield. "It's a disappointing result and performance from us,"conceded Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "We will have to take that as a bad day at the office and move on.”

Finally, it's been a long time coming but Queens Park Rangers have at last won a league game after four months of misery. Adel Taarabt was the home side hero, scoring twice in a 2-1 victory over Fulham that lifts Rangers off the bottom of the table. (Reading are now in 20th spot, but with a game in hand.) "I cannot ask any more than they gave today,"said Rangers boss Harry Redknapp. "We defended for our lives and got what we deserved. That last four minutes when you see a 2-0 lead go to 2-1, you keep looking at the referee and there are not many better feelings in life when he blows that whistle."  · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.