Evergreen Paul Scholes marked his return to Premier League duty with the first goal for Manchester United in a 3-0 home win against Bolton Wanderers as the champions moved level on points with leaders Manchester City on Saturday.
United had lost their previous two league games and there were some jitters when Wayne Rooney’s early penalty was saved, but Scholes’ effort at the end of the first half was followed by goals from Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick as United moved alongside City on 48 points.
Tottenham Hotspur squandered the chance to make it a three-way tie at the top when they could only draw 1-1 at home to lowly Wolverhampton Wanderers. The north London club remain two points behind the leaders on 46.
Croatian Luka Modric equalized for Tottenham after Steven Fletcher had given Wolves a surprise lead.
Frank Lampard scored the winner for fourth-placed Chelsea (40 points) in a 1-0 defeat of Sunderland, but Liverpool, in sixth (35), were frustrated in their quest for Champions League qualification when they drew 0-0 at home to Stoke City.
At the bottom, Blackburn Rovers climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-1 victory at home to Fulham despite playing more than half the match with 10 men after Aiyegbeni Yakubu was given a red card for a rash tackle.
The 37-year-old Scholes, who provided one of the season’s most unexpected turns when he came out of retirement to play in the FA Cup win against Man City last week, scored in first-half stoppage time — his first goal since August 2010.
Former England midfielder Scholes, who announced he was hanging up his boots at the end of last season when he managed just one goal, was stationed in central midfield, but popped up in the area to turn in Rooney’s cross to break the deadlock.
“It was a bit of a surprise to see [Scholes] pop up at the back post, because at his age and just having come back,” manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. “We had asked him to control the midfield, but he has an instinct and always had the instinct for a goal and that could be an important one for us.”
Welbeck made it 2-0 when he poked the ball past Adam Bogdan from Rooney’s pass, although the striker appeared to hurt his knee in the process of scoring his eighth goal of the season and was substituted. Carrick’s cool finish wrapped up the points.
Tottenham have been tipped as title contenders after winning 14 of their previous 18 league matches to close in on the Manchester clubs, but stumbled against Wolves.
They fell behind midway through the first half when Fletcher headed the visitors into the lead from their first chance and ended up frustrated despite Modric equalizing with a rasping shot just after halftime.
Chelsea halted Sunderland’s revival under manager Martin O’Neill when Lampard’s bundled early goal after Fernando Torres’ volley crashed against the bar earned the home side a victory that moved them six points behind Tottenham.
Other Premier League matches:
‧ Aston Villa 1, Everton 1
‧ Norwich 2, West Brom 1