LONDON, Jan 1: Manchester United striker Robin van Persie bagged a contrasting brace in a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic on Tuesday to hand Roberto Mancini another painful reminder of why he looks the difference in the Premier League title race.

Mancini’s Manchester City did their job by winning 3-0 at home to Stoke City but the defending champions remain seven points behind their rivals with Tottenham Hotspur up to third following a 3-1 win over Reading.Van Persie was pinpointed by Mancini in the pre-match buildup as the reason why United may snatch back their title and the former Arsenal hotshot continued 2013 where he left off in 2012, curling in a beauty just before the break.

Lowly Wigan also conceded a Javier Hernandez double and a late Van Persie tap-in as the leaders marched on to 52 points from 21 games.

City kept the pressure on, however, thanks to goals by Pablo Zabaleta, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero at the Etihad Stadium, ending Stoke’s 10-match unbeaten run.

Zabeleta broke the deadlock, rolling the ball into an empty net after Asmir Begovic touched away James Milner’s low cross with his foot.

Aguero was the creator of City’s second, with a low drive that was parried by Begovic, only for Edin Dzeko to turn the loose ball home before scoring from the penalty spot after Steven Nzonzi was adjudged to have tripped David Silva, but the Argentine had to leave the fray moments later after appearing to sustain a hamstring injury.

Tottenham fell behind in the fourth minute against Reading when Pavel Pogrebnyak headed the visitors in front, but Michael Dawson’s header meant the hosts were level within five minutes.

Spurs were dominant from then on, Emmanuel Adebayor putting them in front with a powerful 51st-minute header before Clint Dempsey’s fortuitous deflected strike made it 3-1.

Victory took Spurs a point clear of Chelsea, who have two games in hand and host bottom club Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday.

Aston Villa put an end to a run of three straight defeats, in which they had conceded 15 goals, by drawing 2-2 at Swansea City, who equalised through Danny Graham in injury time.West Ham United were also on the up, beating Norwich City 2-1 through goals from Mark Noble and Joey O’Brien to climb to 11th.

Earlier, Fulham shook off their slumbers from 2012 to win 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion and record only their second win in 13 matches.

Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov had the honour of scoring the first goal of 2013 at the Hawthorns, with Alex Kacaniklic netting a 58th-minute winner after Romelu Lukaku equalised early in the second-half.

Results:

Manchester City 3    Stoke City 0 Swansea City 2    Aston Villa 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3    Reading 1 West Bromwich Albion 1    Fulham 2 West Ham United 2    Norwich City 1 Wigan Athletic 0    Manchester United 4 —Agencies

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