Liverpool and Arsenal capitalized on a rare slipup by Premier League leaders Chelsea by claiming away wins at their fiercest rivals on Sunday to close up an intriguing four-team race for the title.
Liverpool humiliated soon-to-be-deposed champions Manchester United in a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford, with Steven Gerrard converting two penalties and Luis Suarez also scoring in a one-sided match that highlighted the gulf that has emerged between the two foes.
“It’s a nightmare,” said United striker Wayne Rooney, whose team is virtually assured of missing out on next season’s UEFA Champions League. “It’s one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football.”
At White Hart Lane, Tomas Rosicky’s superb goal after 72 seconds sealed Arsenal’s battling 1-0 win at north London neighbors Tottenham Hotspur, a result that also likely knocked Spurs out of contention for a top-four finish.
The gap between Chelsea, who lost 1-0 at Aston Villa on Saturday, and fourth-placed Manchester City is now six points and all three teams chasing the leaders have games in hand over Jose Mourinho’s side.
It is shaping up to be the most exciting conclusion ever to a Premier League title race that for once, will not include United.
On the darkest day of David Moyes’ tumultuous first season, United were embarrassed in front of a home crowd by rivals who are attempting to recreate the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, when they dominated English soccer.
Liverpool’s last league title came in the 1989-1990 season, but Gerrard said they have proved they are genuine contenders by running United ragged in a match the visitors could easily have won by six or seven.
Gerrard scored penalties in the 34th and 46th minutes, but missed another spot-kick in the 78th. However, it mattered little, as Suarez completed the crushing win with his 25th goal of the campaign.
“I thought we were outstanding,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose team put on a show for Argentina great Diego Maradona watching in the stands.
Such is the beleaguered state of United’s campaign that they have to win their remaining nine games to avoid finishing with their lowest points haul in the Premier League era. Such is United’s demise that Liverpool have gone from finishing 28 points behind the Red Devils last season to being 14 points ahead this season.
While Liverpool produced a masterful attacking display, Arsenal were more than happy to win ugly.
Rosicky drove a rising shot into the net from the edge of the penalty box to give the Gunners a lead that they defended stoutly in the second half to secure a first win at Tottenham since September 2007.
The loss saw Tottenham remain in fifth, seven points behind Manchester City having played three games more.
It looks to be a three-way fight for fifth and sixth place — the two spots that seal berths in next season’s UEFA Europa League — between Spurs, Everton and United.