Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could develop a real gap between themselves and the chasing pack with victory at Stamford Bridge next week, and have a game in hand against Blackpool to boot.
Park Ji-Sung’s first-half header was enough to see off the challenge of Arsenal, who failed to hit their stride on a pitch described by Arsene Wenger as ‘very poor.’
Meanwhile, at White Hart Lane it looked as though hosts Spurs would be made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as Didier Drogba’s shot beat Heurelho Gomes and the Brazilian keeper then felled Ramires in stoppage time to give away a penalty.
But Gomes made his name stopping spot-kicks, as Lyon found out to their chagrin in the 2005 Champions League, and he stopped Drogba’s effort to keep Tottenham in touch with the top four.
The fixture list provided a great opportunity for Manchester City to put themselves forward as genuine title contenders, and with their rivals facing off against each other Roberto Mancini’s side ended the weekend in third place.
Their lofty position comes courtesy of a comfortable 3-1 win at West Ham, with Yaya Toure continuing to slowly prove his worth in the North-West.
West Ham, meanwhile, remain bottom after that defeat and manager Avram Grant must surely feel his time is nearly up.
If the Hammers are to replace Grant, one man who might come in is Sam Allardyce. The Blackburn manager was the latest victim of a shock sacking as the club’s Indian owners felt defeat against 10-man Bolton was one loss too many.
Owen Coyle’s Trotters continue to hold their own in the top six, with the team making light of Mark Davies’ dismissal to see off their opponents 2-1.
Fabrice Muamba and Stuart Holden scored the goals, either side of a Mame Biram Diouf effort, to leave Coyle’s side five points and seven places ahead of their managerless victims.
Speaking of managerial changes, this week’s incumbent of the St James’ Park hot seat – Alan Pardew – earned himself a stay of execution (only joking) with victory over Liverpool in his first game as Newcastle manager.
Joey Barton almost managed not to rise to fairly blatant Liverpool attempts to wind him up, and actually let his football do the talking, while Andy Carroll’s clinching goal in the 3-1 win will be the kind of thing he falls back on in a few years when his career inevitably goes the way of former North-East darling Michael Bridges.
Another boss who remains under pressure – if reports are to be believed – is Aston Villa’s Gerard Houllier, and that will make his side’s victory over West Brom on Saturday all the more important.
The 2-1 triumph came courtesy of goals from Stewart Downing and Emile Heskey, while Paul Scharner’s consolation did little apart from costing me a handful of fantasy league points.
Albion’s Black Country rivals Wolves secured a priceless victory in the second Midlands derby of the weekend, with Stephen Hunt’s second goal in black and gold (the black and gold of Wolves, that is, rather than the black and gold of previous club Hull) enough to see off a painfully disappointing Birmingham outfit.
The only other goal of the weekend came at the Britannia Stadium, where Blackpool continued to confound their doubters with victory over Stoke.
DJ Campbell was the hero for Ian Holloway’s Seasiders, as he has been many times in the past, although the visitors had the woodwork to thank for keeping out Stoke on multiple occasions.
Few could have predicted ‘Pool sitting four points ahead of Everton at this stage in the campaign, but that is exactly where they are after the Toffees failed to break the deadlock at home to Wigan.
David Moyes side missed the creative energy of Mikel Arteta, and fans will hope American international Landon Donovan returns in January for a second loan spell after impressing last season.
The final game of the week was played at Craven Cottage, and involved Fulham and Sunderland.
That’s about as much as I can tell you: I was at the game, and nothing actually happened over the course of the 90 minutes. The ‘highlight’ (if it can be called that) was Ahmed Elmohamady curling into a foetal position after a football-in-the-groin moment which puts Hans Moleman to shame.
Team of the week (4-2-3-1) Foster (Birmingham); Ricketts (Bolton), Vidic (Man Utd), Cuellar (Aston Villa), Ward (Wolves); Yaya Toure (Man City), Barton (Newcastle); Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Vaughan (Blackpool), Holden (Bolton); Campbell (Blackpool)