Robin van Persie double helps cement Man Utd's lead
Delighted Alex Ferguson commends RVP and Javier Hernandez for brilliance in front of goal
THERE was no New Year Day’s hangover for the two Manchester clubs, with both United and City winning comfortably on the first day of 2013 action. Leaders United cruised to a 4-0 win away at Wigan, while City had little trouble disposing of Stoke 3-0 at the Etihad.
With Chelsea not playing until this evening, Tottenham climbed back to third with a 3-1 win over Reading although they remain 13 points adrift of United.
It took Manchester United until 35 minutes to break down Wigan but once Javier Hernandez had fired them ahead they were never in danger of letting the three points slip.
Robin van Persie curled a delightful shot into the corner of the Wigan net two minutes before the break and Hernandez made it 3-0 midway through the second half. Van Persie was on hand later for a simple tap-in after good work by Danny Welbeck. "It was a perfect start to 2013. It has given us a seven-point lead with 17 games left," said Alex Ferguson.
The United manager also had warm words for his two strikers. "Javier Hernandez is a goal-scorer, a real penalty box player. Van Persie's ability to play is exceptional and his first goal was magnificent. We expected him to be a major player and add something to us and that is exactly what he has done."
Manchester City also found the early going tough against a Stoke side unbeaten in their previous ten matches. Eventually Pablo Zabaleta put the reigning champions ahead on 43 minutes and Eden Dzeko added a second on 56 minutes, the Bosnian striker celebrating by lifting his top to reveal a T-shirt wishing fans a 'Happy New Year'.
The fun continued for City when Sergio Aguero buried a penalty after David Silva had been felled by Steven Nzonzi, but their celebrations were later muted by a hamstring injury to Sergio Aguero.
"It's difficult to assess an injury like that and how long it is going to be,” said Manchester City assistant manager David Platt. "Certainly on Saturday he will be out [for the FA Cup tie against Watford] and my experience would say he will be doubtful for Arsenal [a week later]."
Tottenham got off to a disastrous start at home to Reading, the visitors one up after four minutes when Pavel Pogrebnyak headed home from a free-kick. But Spurs fought back to run out 3-1 winners thanks to goals from Michael Dawson, Emmanuel Adebayor and Clint Dempsey.
"We did well to close out the festive period with 10 points from four games," said Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas. "Hopefully we will continue this form to put ourselves in the position we want to be."
In other results, a desperately poor performance from Arsenal saw them held 1-1 away at Southampton. Three days after thrashing Newcastle 7-3, no Gunner was able to find the target against the Saints, with an own goal from Guly Do Prado cancelling out an earlier effort from Gaston Ramirez in what was a dreary start to the year on the south coast.
“It is frustrating and disappointing because we did not create a lot,” reflected Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “We lacked purpose, penetration and speed. All qualities we have usually but lacked tonight.”
The result means Arsenal are in fifth spot, 18 points behind Manchester United, while the point was enough to drag Southampton out of the relegation zone leaving Wigan, Reading and QPR beneath them.
Elsewhere Fulham beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1, Aston Villa and Swansea shared four goals in an entertaining encounter at the Liberty Stadium, and West Ham defeated Norwich 2-1.