London: A hat trick by Dimitar Berbatov inspired Manchester United to a 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic, and at the same time drew themselves level on points with rival Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Dimitar Berbatov, the second choice centre forward for United this season, reinforced his value with a hat-trick while Park Ji-Sung and Valencia netted one in each half to help the Reds draw level on points with the leaders Manchester City, both on 45 after 18 rounds.
Tottenham Hotspur (with two games in hand), Chelsea, Arsenal (one game in hand) and Liverpool follow Manchester’s “big two” but will find it hard to join in the title race because of a 10-point gap.
As a result of London tube drivers’ strike on Boxing Day, some clubs chose to delay their fixtures for fans’ convenience. Arsenal thus will play Wolves at home on Tuesday while Spurs will visit Norwich City.
Compared to their neighbour’s easy win, Manchester City seemed to lose their shooting boots after an overwhelming 62 percent possession, frustrated by a low-profile West Bromwich Albion in an uneventful 0-0 draw. This was the first time that City failed to score in a league game this season. Despite losing a two-point advantage over Man United, City still led the table on goal difference.
Liverpool overcame Charlie Adam’s own goal in the first- half stoppage time and moved level with the bottom placed Blackburn in 1-1 after Maxi Rodriguez equalised early in the second session. Captain Steven Gerrard came off the bench to replace Adam with 20 minutes left and it was the England midfielder’s first game since his ankle injury in October.
Chelsea’s title hopes somewhat faded after the Blues suffered a disappointing 1-1 draw in a west London derby against Fulham.
At Stamford Bridge, Andre Villas-Boas’s side opened the scoring through Juan Mata two minutes into the second half. However, the visitors needed just ten minutes to level the scores when the American striker Clint Dempsey netted from close range.