Man City sails by Fulham to keep EPL lead
United meets Chelsea on Sunday
Manchester City rediscovered its attacking verve in the English Premier League on Saturday, beating Fulham 3-0 to maintain its perfect home record and keep Manchester United at arm's length in the title race.
City's 12th straight league victory at Etihad Stadium left the leaders three points clear of United, which visits fourth-place Chelsea on Sunday looking for a win to maintain the pressure on its neighbour.
The most resounding victory came at Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal rebounded in style from its miserable recent run in the league by hammering Blackburn 7-1, with Robin van Persie grabbing a hat trick to take his tally for the campaign to 22 goals.
Thierry Henry also scored for Arsene Wenger's team, which climbed above Newcastle and Liverpool provisionally into fifth place and within two points of Chelsea, the holder of the final Champions League qualification spot.
Argentina forward Sergio Aguero converted a penalty for his 15th league goal of the season and also set up strike partner Edin Dzeko as City battled through heavy snow that afflicted the majority of games in the English program.
Fulham defender Chris Baird scored an own goal to compound the misery for Fulham, which was the first team to take points off City this campaign by rallying to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in September.
Elsewhere, Sunderland's impressive run under new manager Martin O'Neill continued with a 1-0 win at Stoke, while Wolverhampton Wanderers capitalized on the sending-off of Djibril Cisse on his home debut for Queens Park Rangers to rally to a 2-1 win and climb out of the relegation zone.
Bolton dropped into the bottom three with a 2-0 loss at Norwich, Swansea came from behind to defeat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 and bottom team Wigan held Everton to a 1-1 draw.
City has struggled for form and luck in January, losing to both Sunderland and Everton in the league and getting dumped out of both domestic cup competitions.
Countering increasing talk of the title jitters, the big-spending northwest team brushed aside Fulham with ease.
"It was important to win quickly after losing to Everton [on Tuesday]," Mancini said. "We started well and put pressure on them and I'm happy.
"If we want to win this league, we need to win lots of games here until the end. We can't think about United or Tottenham."
Arsenal had picked up just one point from its last four games to slump to seventh place and endanger its habitual spot among the Champions League positions, where the team had resided ever since Wenger joined the club in 1996.
However, the feel-good factor returned to the Emirates thanks to an attacking masterclass led by Van Persie.
Goals in the second, 38th and 62nd minutes moved him above fellow Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp into 10th place on Arsenal's all-time scorers list with 123 overall.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored twice, his first league goals for Arsenal, while Mikel Arteta and Henry also got in the act in the hosts' first league win in 2012.
Blackburn was punished for Gael Givet's sending-off for a two-footed tackle on Van Persie with the score at 3-1.
"It's a horrible afternoon," said Blackburn manager Steve Kean, whose team's goal came when Morten Gamst Pedersen equalized in the 31st.
Wenger again praised Van Persie, who he was thinking of resting for the game.
"When you feed him in the box, he is deadly," the Frenchman said.
What looks to be a four-way battle for fourth place continues when Newcastle hosts Aston Villa on Sunday. Liverpool is at home to third-place Tottenham on Monday.
Sunderland will also feel it can make a late challenge for the European spots if the team keeps up its stunning run since O'Neill took charge at the start of December.
A 60th-minute solo goal by highly rated Irish winger James McClean earned Sunderland a seventh victory in 10 league matches under O'Neill, who replaced Steve Bruce when the club was in relegation trouble.
The Black Cats are now eighth, seven points behind Arsenal, and are the team with the best current form in the division.