Tottenham Hotspur hammered another nail into Manchester United’s creaking Premier League title defence with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day.
Having won their previous six games in all competitions, United were hoping to match wins by their fellow title rivals, but instead they slumped to a sixth defeat of the season that left them 11 points off the pace.
Tottenham, unbeaten in the league under new manager Tim Sherwood, took a 34th-minute lead when Emmanuel Adebayor outjumped Chris Smalling to head home Christian Eriksen’s right-wing centre.
Eriksen added a second in the 66th minute, smuggling a header past David de Gea from Aaron Lennon’s cross.
Danny Welbeck reduced the arrears immediately from Adnan Januzaj’s incisive pass, but Spurs withstood United’s late onslaught, with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saving from Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic.
Victory took Spurs above United into sixth place, two points outside the top four, with the defending champions three points further back in seventh.
Earlier, Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott scored last-gasp goals as Arsenal edged Cardiff City 2-0 to preserve their place at the top of the table.
With former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in attendance, amid reports he is due to succeed the sacked Malky Mackay as Cardiff manager, Arsenal had to wait until the 88th minute for Bendtner to break the deadlock.
Walcott added a second goal in injury time to rubber-stamp Arsenal’s return to first place, after Manchester City had taken temporary possession of top spot by winning 3-2 at Swansea City.
“We needed to be patient against a very good Cardiff side,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
“We know we have to play 10 home games and we want to make this place a fortress and take the points no matter what the others do. If we can manage to do that, we will be in a very strong position.”
At a rain-soaked Liberty Stadium, Fernandinho’s 14th-minute opener for City was cancelled out by Wilfried Bony, but further goals from Yaya Toure and Aleksandar Kolarov gave the visitors victory before Bony struck again in injury time.
“It was a very good result because Swansea are a strong team here at home and also away,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini told Sky Sports. “I think the way we won today is very important for us.”
City finished the day a point behind Arsenal in second place, with Chelsea a point further back in third after a 3-0 success at Southampton.
Fernando Torres gave Chelsea the lead on the hour with a close-range header after a deflected cross from Oscar came back off the post, with Willian making it 2-0 11 minutes later from Oscar’s pass.
Oscar, a second-half substitute, crowned an impressive individual performance by adding a third goal eight minutes from time.
Liverpool responded to consecutive losses at the hands of City and Chelsea by winning 2-0 at home to Hull City, a result which took them back into the top four.
Daniel Agger broke the deadlock with a 36th-minute header, with Luis Suarez netting his 20th goal of the campaign with a fine free-kick early in the second half.
Everton slipped out of the top four despite Leighton Baines scoring an injury-time penalty to earn Roberto Martinez’s side a 1-1 draw at Stoke City, who had taken a 49th-minute lead through Oussama Assaidi.
Nicolas Anelka started for West Bromwich Albion against Newcastle United, despite being under investigation by the Football Association over an allegedly anti-Semitic goal celebration.
The Frenchman played for 88 minutes in West Brom’s 1-0 win, which saw Saido Berahino net the winning goal from the penalty spot with three minutes remaining.
Newcastle defender Mathieu Debuchy had earlier been sent off for an ugly foul on Claudio Yacob.
Fulham escaped from the drop zone after coming from behind to win 2-1 at home to fellow relegation contenders West Ham United, who remain second from bottom.
Mohamed Diame gave West Ham a seventh-minute lead, but Steve Sidwell equalised with a header and, after visiting captain Kevin Nolan was sent off for kicking out at Fernando Amorebieta, Dimitar Berbatov tapped in a 66th-minute winner.
Sunderland remain bottom of the table after Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 15th-minute goal earned Aston Villa a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light, while third-bottom Crystal Palace were held to a 1-1 draw by Norwich City.
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