Top two win - Bolton send Baggies down
By Graeme Bailey
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
United sealed a less than comfortable 3-1 win, whilst Arsenal will be more than happy with their 2-0 success at The Riverside in what was a dramatic day in The Premiership.
Ruud van Nistelrooy gave his side the lead after 20 minutes when he powered home a header after a typical cross came in from David Beckham.
Blackburn then shocked the league leaders with an equaliser just six minutes later when Henning Berg headed home a David Dunn cross after Fabien Barthez flapped at the ball.
United then regained the lead when the ubiquitous Paul Scholes rifled home from the edge of the area after good work from Phil Neville down the left.
The game then turned on one incident when Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo - making his Premiership debut after coming on for the injured Barthez at half time - brought down Andy Cole in the area just three minutes into the second period.
However, he made amends very quickly when he saved Dunn's penalty low down to his right.
Inspired by that United pushed forward and they made it 3-1 just after the hour mark.
Ryan Giggs won the ball with a great sliding tackle, he then beat four players before playing in van Nistelrooy, who in-turn squared the ball for Scholes to rifle home his second.
Arsenal made sure that United's lead at the top was not extended as they secured a hard fought 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at The Riverside.
After a goalless first half with very few chances, The Gunners showed their class by taking advantage of an error just three minutes into the second period.
Brazilian Doriva dallied with the ball and Thierry Henry dispossessed him, he broke into the area and unselfishly crossed for compatriot Sylvain Wiltord to fire the ball home.
Arsenal secured victory with eight minutes remaining when Henry curled home a wonderful free kick into the corner of the net.
The win means that Arsenal stay three points behind United with a game in hand.
Arguably the most decisive game in The Premiership on Saturday was at The Reebok Stadium, where Bolton secured a 1-0 win over West Ham - who are now six points adrift of safety.
Bolton were the better team throughout the game and took a deserved lead after 38 minutes.
It was man-of-the-match Jay-Jay Okocha who grabbed the only goal when he collected the ball in his own half and ran on mostly unchallenged before smashing an unbeatable 20-yard drive past David James.
The Hammers' miserable day was compounded in the final minute when Ian Pearce was dismissed for violent conduct.
Bolton's win meant that West Brom were relegated despite the fact they sealed a 2-1 win at Sunderland.
The Baggies took the lead after 39 minutes when captain Derek McInnes grabbed his first goal of the season and then just three minutes later the Scottish international scored again from close range.
Sunderland pulled one back through Marcus Stewart after 70 minutes, but they could not level matters and look consigned to the wooden spoon.
Liverpool won the Merseyside derby at Everton 2-1 to give their Champions League hopes a massive boost.
England vice-captain Michael Owen opened the scoring with a clinical finish on the half-hour mark when he broke inside the area past Joseph Yobo and blasted home.
The Toffees then levelled matters on 58 minutes from the penalty spot, when Jamie Carragher clattered into Gary Naysmith.
David Unsworth stepped up to smash the ball home.
Liverpool, though, made sure they moved above their arch-rivals as they grabbed a second minutes later when Danny Murphy curled the ball home form 25 yards.
Everton lost their discipline late on when both David Weir and Naysmith were sent off for second yellow cards.
The Reds' hopes of a top four finish were boosted, after both Chelsea and Newcastle suffered shock away defeats.
The Magpies went down 2-1 to Fulham at Loftus Road, after taking the lead.
Alan Shearer put them in-front on 39 minutes when he headed home Hugo Viana's cross.
Andy Griffin was then dismissed for his second bookable offence, which gave Fulham a boost. Sylvain Legwinski rifled home the equaliser on 69 minutes with a fantastic 30-yard drive.
The winner then came from former Newcastle man Lee Clark, who smashed the ball home from 20 yards, to give his side victory.
Chelsea also went down by 2-1 as they lost to an impressive Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Swedish star Marcus Allback grabbed a brace, first with a great volley after 11 minutes and then an overhead kick on 78 minutes.
John Terry scored a close range header, but it was too little too late for The Blues.
Charlton Athletic find themselves in the bottom half of the table after a disappointing 2-0 home loss to Birmingham City.
Blues have now all-but banished their relegation fears with a great display, which saw them take the lead after 20 minutes when Christophe Dugarry flicked home a Geoff Horsfield cross.
The second came on the hour mark when Robbie Savage won a penalty when Chris Powell brought him down, the Welsh star took the kick himself and beat Dean Kiely with ease.
Southampton moved up to eighth in the table with a 3-2 win over Leeds United at St Mary's - although the scoreline flattered the away side.
Brett Ormerod (31), James Beattie (44) and Anders Svensson (52) set The Saints on their way with a very impressive display.
Leeds also had Alan Smith dismissed - the ninth time in his career - when he received a second yellow card for fouling Michael Svensson.
Peter Reid's outfit did make a game of it though, as they hit back through Harry Kewell with ten minutes remaining and then Nick Barmby, although the second came in the last few seconds of the game which Southampton deserved to win.
Click below for match summaries:
Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea
Bolton Wanderers 1-0 West Ham United
Charlton Athletic 0-2 Birmingham City
Everton 1-2 Liverpool
Fulham 2-1 Newcastle United
Manchester United 3-1 Blackburn Rovers
Middlesbrough 0-2 Arsenal
Southampton 3-2 Leeds United
Sunderland 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Click here for Premiership table