LONDON, Dec 16 — Robin van Persie was back on target for Manchester United as the Premier League leaders swept aside Sunderland 3-1 at Old Trafford yesterday to stay six points clear at the top.
United were 2-0 up after 19 minutes, Van Persie opening the scoring with a left-foot finish from close range for his 12th league goal of the season and Tom Cleverley adding a quickfire second three minutes later.
England striker Wayne Rooney, who had been doubtful due to midweek sickness, made it 3-0 in the 59th minute before substitute Fraizer Campbell pulled one back with a header four minutes after coming on.
Champions Manchester City, beaten 3-2 by United in last weekend’s derby after an agonising Van Persie stoppage-time winner, had earlier narrowed the gap to three points after defeating Newcastle United 3-1 at St James’ Park.
Elsewhere, Queens Park Rangers celebrated their first win of the season after beating west London rivals Fulham 2-1 thanks to two-goal Adel Taarabt to end a record run of 16 matches without a victory and move off the foot of the table.
The win stopped QPR becoming the first top-flight team since Bolton Wanderers in 1902-03 to fail to win any of their opening 17 games.
Aston Villa fans had plenty to cheer after a fighting 3-1 win at Liverpool moved them three points clear of the relegation zone.
Christian Benteke scored in each half at Anfield with Andreas Weimann grabbing the other goal for Villa who were 2-0 up at halftime. Steven Gerrard headed an 87th-minute consolation for Liverpool.
Norwich City beat Wigan Athletic 2-1 while Stoke City and Everton drew 1-1. Fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur host Swansea City today while West Ham United visit West Bromwich Albion.
Arsenal travel to bottom club Reading tomorrow.
Manchester United now have 42 points to City’s 36 while European champions Chelsea, who were not in action due to their Club World Cup final in Japan today, remained third on 29 points with a game in hand. — Reuters