Manchester City showed on Sunday that they may have the character as well as the talent necessary to win the Premier League, beating Arsenal 1-0 to stay top of the table.
Manchester United’s 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers in the day’s early match meant City knew they had to avoid defeat or lose the top spot they have held since mid-October.
City went one better, beating Arsenal 1-0 to stay two points ahead of their local rivals.
David Silva capped a period of sustained pressure by City with the only goal in the 53rd minute and goalkeeper Joe Hart made a string of saves to keep Arsenal out.
“We watched Man United, so we knew we had a job to do this afternoon,” Hart said.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick scored for United, while Tottenham Hotspur beat Sunderland 1-0 to take third place. Liverpool won 2-0 at Aston Villa in the day’s other match.
As well as having to respond to United’s convincing win over a team that has beaten Chelsea and unsettled City this season, City had to get over the loss of their unbeaten Premier League record to Chelsea on Monday.
Both teams attacked from the start in an open game, but City gained the upper hand when Mario Balotelli burst into space and drew a save from Wojciech Szczesny with a shot low to the goalkeeper’s left. The ball rebounded into the six-yard box and Silva poked it in from close range.
Robin van Persie, the Premier League’s leading scorer, had an equalizer ruled out because of a narrow offside decision and Hart made several saves. The best stop came when he pushed a late shot over the bar from Thomas Vermaelen, who also shot narrowly wide from long range.
“Both teams played in a positive spirit and went for it with a positive philosophy,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Rooney scored his 15th goal of the season — and his 12th in the Premier League — after just 52 seconds. The England striker headed the ball out to Antonio Valencia on the right and continued his run into the box to meet Valencia’s cross with a stooping header into the net.
Carrick then intercepted a pass just inside the United half and advanced to the edge of the area to hit a low shot past goalkeeper Radek Cerny for his first goal in almost two years.
United could easily have scored more, with Phil Jones hitting the post and a couple of moves breaking down on the final pass.
“We could have scored a lot of goals today,” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said. “Queens Park Rangers in their home games have been a real problem to a lot of teams, but we kept them quiet for most of the game.”
Liverpool scored from corners twice in the first 15 minutes at Aston Villa.
Craig Bellamy poked in from close range after the ball hit goalkeeper Brad Guzan and then took a corner on the left, sending the ball onto Martin Skrtel’s head for the unmarked defender to score.
“We passed the ball and moved it, and hit the bar twice. I think it was [a] well-deserved three points for us,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said after his first league win as a coach at Villa Park. “The first goal was a little bit fortunate, but the second one was a good flick-on from Martin.”
Spurs dropped to fourth last week when their 11-match unbeaten run came to an end at Stoke City, but they swiftly recovered to take advantage of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic on Saturday.