Manchester United laid down a significant marker in the Premier League title race as Robin Van Persie’s late free-kick sealed a dramatic 3-2 Premier League derby win at Manchester City’s home fortress on Sunday.
City fought back after Wayne Rooney’s first-half double, but goals from Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta proved in vain as Van Persie marked his first Manchester derby with a stoppage-time strike that took United six points clear of City at the top of the table.
Everton scored twice in added time to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Goodison Park, with Nikica Jelavic’s decisive goal putting David Moyes’s team back in the top four.
West Ham United were haunted by former players as Glen Johnson and Joe Cole scored in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory at Upton Park as the Merseyside club moved into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
United’s victory ended City’s two-year unbeaten home run in the league — a sequence of 37 matches — and inflicted a first league defeat of the season on Roberto Mancini’s side.
It proved extra sweet for United after the sky-blue half of Manchester ruled the roost last season, memorably beating United 6-1 at Old Trafford before following up with a home win and going on to claim the title for the first time since 1968.
An ugly incident immediately after Van Persie’s winner when celebrating United defender Rio Ferdinand was left bloodied by a coin thrown by City fans, threatened to overshadow a rip-roaring advertisement for Premier League soccer.
City issued a statement apologizing to Ferdinand while England’s Football Association also confirmed they would investigate the incident, which could have repercussions for the home club.
Rooney put United ahead after a 16th-minute counter-attack ended with him scuffing a low shot into the corner.
It was not the smoothest connection, but meant the 27-year-old became the youngest player to reach 150 Premier League goals, a feat only managed by Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole and Frank Lampard.
Rooney made it 2-0 in the 29th minute with a cool finish after fine link-up play between Rafael and Antonio Valencia.
It was clinical by United while City, who had also lost centerback and captain Vincent Kompany to injury, appeared deflated.
Mancini lost patience with striker Mario Balotelli seven minutes into the second half, replacing the disgruntled Italian with former United striker Carlos Tevez.
Ashley Young was wrongly judged offside as he slotted into an empty net after Van Persie’s shot hit the woodwork.
City, instead of being 3-0 down, immediately went down the other end where Tevez showed great composure to set up Toure to fire past David De Gea.
Belief flooded back into the City ranks and Zabaleta’s thumping finish made it 2-2 in the 86th minute and even raised hopes of victory.
Yet Van Persie had other ideas and stepped up in stoppage time to fire a free-kick past Hart with the aid of a deflection off Samir Nasri.
Tottenham were close to a fourth consecutive league win that would have cemented their place in the top four when Clint Dempsey opened the scoring at Goodison Park after 76 minutes.
Everton, beaten only twice in the league this season, equalized with a header from their former Tottenham player Steven Pienaar before Jelavic poked home the winner.
Liverpool had to make do without Luis Suarez for the trip to West Ham, but proved they can still prosper without the Uruguayan.