LONDON: Reigning champions Manchester United went closer to their 20th English title as they extended their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League to eight points with just six games left to play.
United beat 10-man Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at Old Trafford to increase the pressure on second-placed City, who kicked-off away to Arsenal eight points adrift of their cross-town foes.
And that remained the gap when, with three minutes left, Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta beat England goal-keeper Joe Hart from long-range with a superb shot to seal a 1-0 win for the Gunners that saw them leapfrog north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur into third place.
City’s misery was compounded when temperamental striker Mario Balotelli was sent-off a minute before full-time.
Before kick-off, City manager Roberto Mancini said City had to win to stay in the title race.
“Today for us is like a final, otherwise eight points is too much,” he told Sky Sports.
United seal eighth successive league match
At Old Trafford, United — now a goal better off than longtime leaders City on goal difference — won their eighth successive league match.
Goals from Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes saw United to victory but Rooney’s opener was controversial.
The England striker gave United a 15th-minute lead from the penalty spot after QPR captain Shaun Derry was sent off for bringing down Ashley Young inside the area, with referee Lee Mason ruling he had been denied a clear goal-scoring chance.
Mason’s decision was harsh on Rangers, who are still above the relegation zone on goal difference. Derry’s contact appeared minimal and Young looked to be offside.
“I thought it was offside,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“There have been lots of decisions like that in the last few weeks. The boy [Derry] did just enough to off-balance Ashley and, being the last defender, the referee felt he had no option.
“I felt we were a little bit out of our comfort zone after that, I didn’t enjoy it,” he added.
“Before the sending-off our speed was terrific, we had some good play, but the sending-off unsettled us and put us out of our comfort zone.”
Even though QPR keeper Paddy Kenny correctly dived to his right, Rooney’s well-struck penalty gave him his 30th goal of the season and left the visitors with a mountain to climb.
Kenny saved from Rafael
da Silva and Danny Welbeck to keep QPR in the game until the 68th minute when he
was beaten by a 20-yard shot from veteran midfielder Scholes.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.